Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize Recipient
Dr Jamal Rifi, 2022
Oil on canvas
99 cm x 133 cm
Sam Dabboussy completed a Bachelor of Fine Art (double major in Painting and Design at the College of Fine Arts (now UNSW Art and Design) in 1990, and subsequently a Master of Teaching at Sydney University in Visual Arts. Sam has participated in several art prizes and has been a finalist in the Gallipoli Art Prize (2020 and 2021), the Elaine Birmingham National Watercolour Art Prize (2020), and the Georges River Art Prize (2015).
Dr Jamal Rifi is a painted portrait of the Lebanese-Australian general practitioner and prominent community leader Dr Jamal Rifi. For the artist, he is a person “that words cannot describe”. Being a founding member of both the Muslim Doctors Against Violence and the Christian-Muslim Friendship Society, Dr Rifi is a strong advocate for interfaith initiatives and strengthening social cohesion. In 2010, Dr Rifi was a national finalist as Australia’s Local Hero for the Australian of the Year, and won The Australian newspaper’s Australian of the Year Award in 2015.
During Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown in 2021, Dr Rifi came up with an unusual plan to encourage his community to come forward for COVID-19 vaccination. He implemented one of the state’s first drive-through vaccination hubs—on his own driveway in front of his own home. “I realised we needed to build on our community advocacy work by using an inflatable vaccination facility that could be transported easily into the heart of urban communities that had become COVID-19 hotspots, such as my own suburb of Belmore”, explained Dr Rifi (National Library of Medicine, 2022). By mid- September 2021, Dr Rifi and his vaccination team had administered COVID-19 vaccinations to over 14,000 people.
This portrait captures the two sides of Dr Rifi the artist has gotten to know: the doctor in a shirt and tie, but also as a friend casually sitting opposite you in a chair. A slight purple tinge appears under Dr Rifi’s eyes, perhaps alluding to his tireless efforts across his many community endeavours and initiatives. About Dr Rifi, the artist says, “he is a wonderful person who I have been lucky to spend some time with and can now call a friend.”
Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize supported by:
The Miner’s Wife, 2022
Vintage linen, Asian silks, Peranakan glass beads
98 cm x 70 cm x 0.8 cm
Soraya Abidin is a contemporary textile artist from Sydney. Her practice explores the notion of inter-culturalism through commonalities of beading, embroidery and quilting practised by her Malay and Australian ancestors. Recent work criss-crosses her heritage as she switches between cultural frames, techniques, and materials. Soraya’s textile practice continues to explore the significance of ‘light’ in cultural lore, often considered a metaphoric source of enlightenment and universal guidance connected to the creation of the sun, moon, stars and galaxies. Soraya’s work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally.
The Miner’s Wife is inspired by a South Australian tradition – in Coober Pedy, the miner’s wife gets first pick from the quarried opals. This work illuminates the alluring beauty of the black opal. Appliqued in Asian silk and satin shapes layered over matte black vintage linen, the piece is drenched in celestial hand sewn glass beads, mimicking the fiery colours of opals. Opals are prized the world over and legends speak of their origins and supernatural powers. In Arabic folklore, the Bedouins of the Sahara liken opals to flashes of lightning. Believing they fell from heaven during storms with lightning trapped inside them, they became known as ‘thunderstones’. Opals in the Spanish court of King Alfonso XII appeared cursed after a spate of fatalities gave them the reputation of bad luck. Closer to home, opals appear in Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.
Oil, Gas, Gold & Blood, 2022
Oil on canvas
110cm x 150cm
Mohamed Abumeis was born in Tripoli, Libya in 1970 and arrived in Australia in 2009. He has been exhibiting for over two decades throughout North Africa, the United States of America and Europe, including the 2005 Napoli Biennale. Mohamed has devoted his artistic career to exploring the cultural relationship between space, time and belonging, using iconic and historical references as a vehicle for exploring contemporary issues of migration and diversity.
Oil, Gas, Gold & Blood is a political and humanitarian statement; a petition that denounces greed and the race to obtain sources of energy, economy, oil, gas, and gold. This trinity of sources is inextricably linked to international political conflicts and humanitarian crises. Between 1912 and 2010, countries fought 180 times over territories that contained—or were believed to contain—oil or other natural resources, like gas. Some examples include the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay (1932-1935), World War II (1939-1945), Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (1990), the American invasion of Iraq (2003), and the Heglig Crisis between Sudan and South Sudan (2012). As these conflicts show, rivers of human blood have flowed throughout history, and continue to do so today in our volatile political landscape.
The Crises Series, 2022
Charcoal on paper
52 cm x 39 cm (per frame)
Marwa Charmand is a Western Sydney artist best known for her confronting drawings and paintings that depict society’s worst realities. She believes art is a medium that should be used to communicate strong messages of truth in a world where media platforms censor, twist and distort stories to shape a new status quo. War, poverty, and racism are topics Marwa takes comfort in addressing. Her cultural background has also had a major influence on her practice. Marwa has exhibited in numerous exhibitions including No Added Sugar in 2011 at the Casula Powerhouse and VIVID Ideas Sydney 2017.
The Crises Series examines inhumane conditions happening around the world that have been overshadowed by the COVID pandemic. These collection of artworks highlight Lebanon’s struggle to provide basic needs including, food, water, electricity and medicine. Three-quarters of the population are living in poverty, including the artist’s own family.
My Saree will stay there like ‘My Flag’, 2022
Digital print on Canson Platine Fibre Rag
59.4 cm x 84.1 cm
Hasina Chowdhury Mita, known as ‘Mita Chowdhury’ is an Australian-Bangladeshi multidisciplinary artist. Her artistic practice investigates ideas of identity, cosmopolitanism, and colonial and postcolonial discourse. Mita has participated in many group and solo exhibitions across Melbourne, with a second solo showcase upcoming at the Incinerator Gallery in November 2022. She is currently working on a year-long community art and exhibition project called Kantha: Weaving Our Stories Together with Wyndham City Council while undertaking her Master of Fine Art at RMIT University Melbourne, Australia.
Researcher Samia Khatun, from the University of Sydney, discovered a Bengali Punthi at the historic mosque in Broken Hill, outback New South Wales. The mosque was built in 1887 by Muslim cameleers who migrated to Australia from places like Afghanistan, Balochistan, Pakistan, India and Iran, among others. Punthi is a genre of folk literature comprising poetic fairytales and religious stories from Bengal and East India. Historically, the Punthi was read by a senior person of authority while others would listen. When the Punthi was discovered in Broken Hill, it was mistaken for a copy of the Quran. This encounter mimics the artist’s experience as an Australian-Bengali person, from originating in one place to moving somewhere new. Being a woman of colour with a dualistic and hyphenated identity, the artist seeks to depict and celebrate the presence of the diasporas contributing to this land alongside the Western European community.
So I swear by the afterglow of sunset (Quran 84:16), 2022
120 cm x 65 cm
Ahmed Elsayed has a dynamic identity. Having been born in Egypt, raised in Saudi Arabia, lived in Singapore and now residing in Melbourne, Victoria, Ahmed’s vast cultural experiences present themselves in the diverse subjects he explores through his photography: macro, food, architecture, landscape and sport; overall, he appreciates the artistic and technical aspects of photography. Ahmed was an official photographer for the 28th SEA Games and the 18th ASEAN University Games. He also has a Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging from Photography Studies College in Melbourne. Recently, Ahmed won the People’s Choice Award for the Multifaith Art Exhibition.
Sunset is a very blessed time of the day as mentioned in the Quran (84:16). The ethereal beauty that descends on our world in the last few moments of our day. That’s how big of a deal the sunset is. Watching the sky get coloured in hues of red and orange like molten lava, being reminded of how small we are. How all our racing and running trying to catch up, always trying to chase, hoping that maybe if we move fast enough, we just might make it in life. But, we forget why we exist; we forget how God created all this magnificence for us to admire and ponder His might. How if He wished it, we’d get right where we should be. How instead of racing on that highway to catch that event, maybe we should take a breath and enjoy the moment instead. Enjoy basking in the afterglow of the sunset, in the reminder that we are never alone, that we are right where God intends for us to be.
Lower the Gaze #2, 2022
Moving images with audio
Amber Hammad is a Pakistani-Australian visual artist and researcher. She has a Master of Fine Arts from UNSW, 2021, and has taught art at universities in Pakistan for many years before emigrating to Australia. Amber’s works have been exhibited at various prestigious galleries and museums nationally and internationally including Museo Poldi Pezzoli and Diocesano Museum of Milano in Italy, Apexart in New York, Devi Art Foundation in India, and Rohtas 2 in Pakistan. Currently, her work is on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the celebrated Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes 2022 exhibition.
Lower the Gaze #2 addresses the complex, politicised, and often misrepresented ideas about Muslim women’s bodies. It encourages new conversations around our identity, veiling/unveiling, and subsequent visibility/invisibility/hypervisibility (especially in the age of circulationism and digital surveillance post 9-11). The painterly aesthetic and animated floriated imagery borrowed from Mughal manuscripts refer to artist’s personal migratory history. Pixelation is used as a method to disable and deny satisfaction to gendered and Orientalist viewing of the female body. Lastly, Quran’s verse is used to shift the burden of morality from the female body onto the male gaze (for both the Islamised patriarchal cultures and the Islamophobic West).
White ink on inkjet print
29.7 cm x 42 cm
For Ayman Kaake, sometimes imagination is better than reality. Born in Tripoli, Lebanon, Ayman moved to Australia in 2011 to study visual arts. Pursuing his creative vision led to diplomas in photo- imaging and visual arts from Melbourne Polytechnic, winning best conceptual folio with each. In 2014, his passion for cinema and photography eventually developed into a body of digital artworks, creating contemplative portraiture and sculptural works that delve into the dreamlike world of personal experiences, emotional turmoil, the diasporic melancholy, and the agony of exile.
The Hamsa hand is an ancient Middle Eastern talisman: an object or totem intended to protect, heal or harm individuals for whom they are made. The Hamsa has various meanings throughout the many cultures in which it is represented. Its most universal symbol is that of unity and protection, and in every representation, the Hamsa hand is a means of protection from evil.
Some say that, in Islamic tradition, the five fingers represent the Five Pillars of Islam, while the lines on our palms represent numbers in Arabic; number 18 on the right palm and number 81 on the left and if we added them it will be number 99 which indicates the 99 Names of Allah, and this to be always a reminder of his presence and to pay attention to what we are doing with our hands to this world.
This work draws on deeply personal experiences in order to grapple with a uniquely human characteristic and provokes thought and reflection on an aspect of humanity that – whether or not you are a believer – touch us all.
Pledge to the truth and homeland, 2022
Bas-relief plaster, acrylic and wood
60 cm x 40 cm x 10 cm
Fatima Killeen was born in Casablanca, Morocco. She studied at Les Beaux Arts, the Corcoran School of Arts in Washington D.C. and the ANU School of Arts. Fatima was the recipient of the Wattan Art Prize, the African-Australian Award for Professional Excellence, the International Moroccan Honour Award for Art & Culture, and the Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize 2021. Her work has been exhibited in over 60 solo and group exhibitions with residencies in Australia, Jordan and Morocco. Acquisition highlights include the Australian War Memorial, the Australian National University, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the National Museum of Australia and the Islamic Museum of Australia.
Pledge to the truth and homeland is a tribute to Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist from Al Jazeera, renowned for her insightful commentary throughout the Arab world, reporting the truth and exposing the injustices suffered by Palestinians. She was killed by a sniper from the occupying forces in Jenin. The violent disruption at her funeral and the attack on pallbearers carrying her coffin by Israeli police armed with batons was disgracefully barbaric. The violation of Shireen’s funeral displayed an absence of decorum and decency never seen before.
The plaster frieze is embedded with olive branches and a key, the symbol of Al Awdeh (the Return) to homes bulldozed out of existence. Laced keepsakes are threaded into history and ingrained in the Palestinian women’s narratives of worry and hope for peace. The plaster impression is of a solid stone wall, but it reveals a fragility of a landscape divided by expanding Israeli settlements, killing of Palestinians with impunity and a “promised peace” that decays over decades.
Ramadan Nights, 2022
38 cm x 68cm (per image)
Fadilah Mahmud is a digital artist based in Sydney, Australia. Born and raised among the rich and diverse Muslim communities of Sydney, her work is a window into her experience as a first- generation migrant Muslim living in suburban Australia. She studied Film and Digital Art at the Sydney College of the Arts, and has been a practising artist for almost 10 years.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is also the holiest, for good reason. Muslims believe it is when their sacred scripture, the Quran, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad e. Approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world observe this rite annually through intense spiritual revival, self-discipline, and festivities.
From the sighting of the new moon, Muslims practice fasting and abstinence for 30 days. Between dawn and dusk, no food or drink – including water – is consumed, and intimate relations pause. While these activities are very personal and individual, they are also a powerful symbol of unity. Knowing that there are many Muslims around the world fasting at the same time creates an inspiring sense of solidarity and camaraderie.
The thirst and hunger pains are relieved at sunset with iftar; a joyful, communal breaking of the fast. Ramadan Nights is a nine-part modern exploration of the concept of Iftar (breaking of the fast) and what that looks like within the small, but humble, Muslim communities of Australia. From large spreads to a quick nibble on the train, Iftar has evolved over time with the chaos of our busy lives; but the essence remains the same.
Alcohol ink and gold leaf on aluminium composite board
Nevine Meguid is an avant-garde Australian artist. She brings a multidisciplinary and unique lens to her art from her time residing in Dubai, as well as her Egyptian heritage. Nevine’s artistic process involves creating vibrant, textured layers of fluid alcohol inks and sea salt, combined with rich gold leaf Arabic calligraphy. Nevine explores the captivating beauty of the individual Arabic letters, preserving the design elements of each letter through her disconnected calligraphy style to form multi-layered paintings. She was selected as one of the Top 10 Artists by World Art Dubai & Rove Hotels, 2020. Nevine also won the second prize in the RAK Fine Arts Festival, 2021, and was a finalist in the Bulgari Contemporary Arts Award 2022, Emerging Scene Art Prize 2021.
The sun cannot overtake the moon, nor can the night outrun the day: each floats in (its own) orbit’ (Quran, 36:40).
Ethereal features four gold leaf Arabic letters from the above verse against a dreamy, moon-like sea of alcohol inks. Part of a series that explores the linguistic miracles and kinetic typography throughout the Holy Quran. This piece in particular examines the phenomenal palindrome seen in the words ‘each floats in its own orbit’; transliterated from Arabic to ‘Kulun Fee Falak’.
The Arabic letters that make up these three words read the same both forwards and backwards (K, L, F, Y, F, L, K). Miraculously, just like this palindrome the Arabic letters ‘Kaaf, Laam & Faa,’ in Ethereal are rotating around the letter Yaa, which is the beginning of the next word after this palindrome ‘Yasbahuun’ – meaning swimming/floating in orbit.
NOT OUR TEACHERS segment 2, 2022
Video with audio
8 minutes 26 seconds
Khaled Sabsabi is an established award-winning artist. After migrating with his family in 1978 to escape civil war in Lebanon, Khaled immersed himself in the Western Sydney hip-hop scene where he worked as a performer alongside young Arabic, Aboriginal and Pacific Islander people. These early creative endeavours helped solidify social justice as the crux of Khaled’s practice, where he continues to use multidisciplinary art to help marginalised individuals feel empowered to counteract racism. Khaled’s work is held in 14 private collections across Australia and internationally. Recent accolades include the Fishers Ghost Prize in 2014 and the Western Sydney ARTS NSW Fellowship 2015. He has also represented Australia at the 18th Sydney Biennale, the 9th Shanghai Biennale and the 5th Marrakech Biennale, among others.
NOT OUR TEACHERS segment 2 speaks about the other people, their histories, traditions and ways of learning and being. The work filmed in a small village in the mountains between modern day Lebanon and Syria features the closing of a Zikr ceremony. In Tasawwuf (Sufism), it is referred to these devotional ceremonies as remembrance of the Divine.
Sufis often speak about the innermost part of the heart in which divine revelation is experienced and learned. And for this work, the personal intention follows suit to the importance of experiencing religious and spiritual traditions through emotional, intellectual, and physical practices with all people in this time and space.
Siyahtan Maviye, 2022
Borosilicate coloured glass, silk chiffon and cotton fabric and moving picture
Ece Yavuz is an artist born in Ankara, Turkey who currently resides in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. She initially studied haute couture and garment construction in Sydney, NSW hosting multiple fashion exhibitions and working in the industry for a number of years. Ece then completed a Bachelor of Digital Media at RMIT University, creating work which has been exhibited at SEVENTH Gallery and Tributary Projects. Ece has performed as a part of Next Wave x Liquid Architecture’s co-commission in partnership with The Tote, PRECOG. This was presented by Next Wave Festival 2018 and a part of Polythinking, a major liquid architecture program exploring the potential of polyphony. Recently, Ece exhibited her full glass collection at Hyacinth Gallery in June 2022.
These pieces focus on female Sufis and the art of Sufism; a form of Islamic mysticism which emphasises introspection and spirituality. The works both explore a similar visual motif of angular flow inspired by Arabic script. This is expressed through the French draping and Turkish knots on the garments, and the dripping and layering of coloured prominences over the clear glass in the bottles.
56 cm x 70 cm
Ammar Yonis is a Harari-Australian artist based in Melbourne’s west with a passion for storytelling. He dedicates time to exploring his creativity through mediums such as photography. His debut project Homage was exhibited in Clearing the Shadow at Le Space (December, 2019) and demonstrated his deeply vested interest in facilitating dialogue between a diversity of voices whilst fostering an atmosphere of reflection. Ammar’s work blends fiction with his own realities to explore narratives that are often marginalised.
On 24 March 2020, the Victorian Government announced that it would be implementing strategies to manage the spread of Coronavirus. This marked the start of a long period of lockdowns. Although these were experienced to different degrees right around Australia, were subjected to strict stay-at-home orders for months. Part of the lockdown strategy included the closure of public playgrounds in early August 2021. It was a contentious decision met with plenty of backlash from parents, guardians and carers. Public playgrounds had provided many families with a physical and mental outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Untitled portrays a young man scaling a high fence to gain access to a synthetic soccer pitch. The photograph is part of a series that explores the relationship between geography and recreation, the determination young people must have to enjoy their surroundings to the fullest, some more than others.