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  • Malmal Murtala

The Fab Art Show 24 - Our Take

Firstly, please excuse my being a man, but in my defence, The Fabulous Art Show was curated by Afzal Shafiu, himself a man! And while two wrongs don't make a right, maybe they (and by this I mean we) might cancel each other out. Also, my arty buddy (who’s a lady) said I should allow myself to be [a woman]. So, here goes.

Let me begin by saying there's excitement in these pieces – refinement, rawness, probably most adjectives you might associate with art are realised right here in this gallery.


And this shit is bananas! In fact, a whole bunch of them (handmade soft ‘toys’ by Mary Haleem) are suspended between the floor and ceiling, in green and yellow. And among these bananas are purple bashi. I'm getting some serious phallic feels.

There's also a red doorway (by Mariyam Naeema Omar) beyond which hovers a dark mesh – it's like a gateway into another dimension, the interiority of women? I don't know, but there is something womanly here, the red alludes to the monthly blood perhaps, the lifegiving blood of the womb, and the mesh within – the landscape of thought and feeling in the womanly confines. Anyhow, it's refreshing to see such sculptures/installations at the NAG.

Now, a piece by Shimanie Shareef titled self-distrust – what a name to live up to. And its large, black, sweeping, intertwining brushstrokes do more than hint at some internal struggle. There it is, manifest! This is certainly not for the living room.

In Fathimath Azleina’s offering, a woman of mixed heritage appears on two fabric 'canvases' – this is one of the most arresting works on display. It’s something onto itself, like no other here, and dear god I hope someone buys it because it looks like a ton of work and is pretty to a fault.


But perhaps nothing is quite as stunning as these twin watercolour seascapes – lavishly rendered and tinted a lovely pink, like a bittersweet memory. And it is really something to see Nadhee Rachey’s evolution. You can practically hear and smell the sea – it’s almost too real. The strokes seem extremely fine, the palette very economical, and the unquiet mind of this artist is brought to the fore. Realism at its purest. Plus, she’s got handwritten poetry right next to each piece.

Before we part, Mariyam Munya’s jazz-era style painting with its ensemble of characters (all women) is among the strongest here, not least in terms of ambition. The subjects are all women, all unveiled except one burqa-wearing woman at the centre. Why is she there? What's the painting trying to say? The women all seem subdued. Spent. Is materialism exhausting? Meanwhile, in the foreground is a striking female 'fashionista' perusing a fashion website on a laptop. Is this Angel herself? In any case, this piece is a visual banquet, pulled off with no small amount of skill. And it makes you wonder about each of its individuated subjects, what their stories could possibly be. Somebody, get this kid to an art school.

There's more here to be sure, but these stick out very obviously, to me anyway. There is much to appreciate and love and maybe even draw inspiration from. Will there be a men-only art show? Jk, that’s most art shows anyway. The exhibition is on till the 8th of March so get thee there before then.


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