Bahia Shehab is a Lebanese Egyptian artist, designer and historian. She is an associate professor of design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo. Her artwork has been displayed in exhibitions, galleries and streets around the world and was featured in “Nefertiti’s Daughters” — a 2015 documentary that highlighted the critical role of street art during the Egyptian uprising. Her work has received a number of international recognitions and awards, including: TED fellowship (2012) and TED Senior fellowship (2016), BBC 100 Women list (2013), The American University in Beirut distinguished alumna (2015), Shortlist for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Jameel Prize 4 (2016), and a Prince Claus Award (2016). Her book, “A Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif,” was published in 2010. Shehab is the first Arab woman to receive the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.
While in residence, Shehab completed a two-part mural completed on-site in the Banyan Courtyard. Titled, “My People,” the mural represents a verse from a work by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008). A poem originally written in Arabic, Shehab has interpreted the title and content of the text as a challenge to power — “The Penultimate Address of the ‘Red Indian’ in Front of the White Man” (1992) — and selected this evocative phrase for her piece: “My people will return as air and light and water.” The mural uses an artist-created script that has added both pixelated and figurative roots to 10th century floriated Kufic calligraphy to make a site-specific commentary about colonization, displacement and loss — of land, people and identity.