A’aru // Field of Reeds Part I
During the summer of 2020 at the height of Covid-19 lockdown, Sherin Guirguis was invited to join a group of women and femme artists, poets, writers, and activists. Led by artist Amitis Motevalli, they read aloud a translation of The Conference of the Birds, the epic poem by 13th-century Sufi practitioner Farid ud-Din Attar. The works in this gallery are the result of Guirguis’ socially inspired study of the past, brought about by a contemporary crisis.
This shared reading—a simple act of care and community—became a powerful experience that shifted Guirguis’ artistic practice. Abstracted sketches of centuries-old Egyptian borg hamaam (pigeon towers) she made during these virtual gatherings became images of femme bodies inspired by activists in the group, as well as by mythological birds from the region, specifically Egypt and North Africa. Additionally, Guirguis says, “I began connecting Attar’s narrative of seeking strength in community with mythologies of sacred and magical birds of ancient Egypt and the femmes in my community that had gathered to support each other.”
Guirguis’ exhibition A’aru // Field of Reeds Part I (A’aru refers to the ancient Egyptian afterlife) considers the complexities of human relationships, shared trauma and healing, and the building of futures in community. The artist uses mixed media including ink, gouache, and watercolor on layers of hand-cut and stretched paper to invoke creatures, structures, and communities that are both fantastic and tangible.
“The idea [from author bell hooks] that ‘love is an action,’ and an action one performs in communion with others, is moving and inspirational to me,” says Guirguis. “I find that I have come to think of my art practice in those terms.”
This exhibition is on view at the Honolulu Museum of Art. For more information and to purchase tickets please click here.