Libya: Hurriya

Contemporary Artists from Libya

By Imago Mundi

Catalogue of the Imago Mundi Collection: Libya: Hurriya (2015) by Contemporary Artists From LibyaImago Mundi

The Imago Mundi Libyan Journey

The exact size of the canvas required by Imago Mundi is a truly democratic platform for artists from all over the world to participate without too many restrictions. An entire catalogue dedicated to a single country offers a space where artists are given creative freedom. When I was formally invited by the Benetton Foundation to curate the Libya catalogue, I knew it would be a huge challenge but I took on it.

Afaf Alzubir - Hope, Afaf Alzubir, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Afaf Alzubir - Hope (2015)

My first big concern was how would I be able to find 140 Libyan artists within the time I was given. Secondly, how would I be able to convince each artist of the importance of such a project? And, lastly, my worry was about the logistics of how to physically deliver the 10x12 cm canvas and pack it to reach everyone, in a country that is currently stifled with conflict and a war situation, and does not have almost any postal services. “The Big L” as I like to call Libya, is a land where art has been forgotten as a commodity and its production – although it still goes on – is mostly unknown to the rest of the world.

Tarek Elshebli - Old Street, Tarek Elshebli, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Tarek Elshebli - Old Street (2015)

Malak El Abbar - A Change From Within, Malak El Abbar, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Malak El Abbar - A Change From Within (2015)

Libya is a very large country in its geography, but has a small population compared to its size. It is also quite complex in its social and ethnic composition. Almost the whole territory is covered by the Sahara, but there is one of the longest coastlines in the Mediterranean Sea. With such a varied landscape, its history has witnessed various civilizations who lived here and who have left there their races.

Adel Burgeeg - Landscape, Adel Burgeeg, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Adel Burgeeg - Landscape (2015)

Arwa Abouon - I’m Sorry / I Forgive You, Arwa Abouon, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Arwa Abouon - I’m Sorry / I Forgive You (2015)

Starting from the prehistoric civilizations, this land has hosted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Africans, Amazigh, Tuareg, Tebus, Arabs, Ottomans, Jews, as well as modern Western influences. Although many consider it a cultural desert, this is mainly due to its most recent political history, which has played a leading role in defining the current scene of modern and contemporary art.

Khuloud El Zwai - Hope, Khuloud El Zwai, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Khuloud El Zwai - Hope (2015)

Sabri Sultan - Prayer, Sabri Sultan, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Sabri Sultan - Prayer (2015)

Curating the Imago Mundi became a wonderful journey of discovery and a challenge for me personally, for “Noon Arts” is a small private foundation established in 2012 after the fall of Gaddafi. Its goal was – and still is – to promote contemporary art of Libyan artists and exhibit their work in the rest of the world. Noon Arts has fortunately been successful, by holding several exhibitions around the world and offering artists the long awaited international recognition and positive acknowledgment they deserve.

Ayad Babaa - Just A Fad, Ayad Babaa, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Ayad Babaa - Just A Fad (2015)

Nedal Endish - Virgin Mazes, Nedal Endish, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Nedal Endish - Virgin Mazes (2015)

Daw Ashellhey - Tragedy Of The Unconscious, Daw Ashellhey, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Daw Ashellhey - Tragedy Of The Unconscious (2015)

The experience has unravelled the many threads of this unknown tapestry that makes Libya. During this period of eight months, I was able to create a colorful palette of artists whose work reflects their dreams, worries and aspirations as well as their connection with this complex North African country. I want to firstly thank the Benetton Foundation for giving me the incredible opportunity to provide an archive for future generations as a document of this very moment, given the uncertainty that is experiencing Libya could have prevented that from happening.

Abdulraouf Abayia - The Mask, Abdulraouf Abayia, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Abdulraouf Abayia - The Mask (2015)

Hiyam Milad Zriba - Landscape, Hiyam Milad Zriba, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Hiyam Milad Zriba - Landscape (2015)

In terms of practical work, to make the Libya catalogue a reality, I began using social networks such as Facebook to find the largest possible number of Libyan artists. Then it became more than a reality when in Tripoli I got in touch with the “Art House” under the supervision of Emad Pachagha; and, where in Benghazi, I found Abdelgader Bader. With the important contributions of these two people, we were able to reach 110 artists in Libya and we convinced them to participate. The 30 others to complete the 140 framework were Libyan artists living abroad in various diasporas in different countries around the world.

Mustafa Abudajaja - Graffiti Of War, Mustafa Abudajaja, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Mustafa Abudajaja - Graffiti Of War (2015)

Mithag Ben Amer - Tourag, Mithag Ben Amer, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Mithag Ben Amer - Tourag (2015)

Hanan Alsheep - Landscape, Hanan Alsheep, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Hanan Alsheep - Landscape (2015)

The journey in its various stages has also involved other people. I would like to thank the three ladies whose passionate search, editing, feedback and love for the arts and the Libyan culture have played an important role in completing this work. They are Nahla Al-Ageli, Hadia Gana and Hala Ghellali. Special thanks also to Abdulmalik Mabellini, Ali Mustafa Ramadan, Muftah Abudajaja, Farida Hajaji, Nadine Nasaret, Siraj Dugdug, Nouman El-Ageli, Eman Fezzani, Faisel Almeehoob, Khluloud El Zwai, Sassi Harib, Gaith Elspei, and all artists who took part in it. Lastly, and once again, a big thanks goes to both the Benetton Foundation for Arts Noon entrusted this special assignment and to Sarenco Foundation for having overseen the entire project process.

Ramadan Bakshishi - Mother Teresa, Ramadan Bakshishi, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Ramadan Bakshishi - Mother Teresa (2015)

Hiba Shalabi - Hidden, Hiba Shalabi, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Hiba Shalabi - Hidden (2015)

I hope this review can become a wonderful and useful point of reference for future generations, offering as an open window overlooking the view the very rich, colourful and vibrant Libyan art scene. This will help both Libyans themselves who see and share, and the rest of the world that will appreciate.

Imad Elghariani - Untitled, Imad Elghariani, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Imad Elghariani - Untitled (2015)

Abdulkareem Mansur - Ghazal, Abdulkareem Mansur, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Abdulkareem Mansur - Ghazal (2015)

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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