29 Nov 2023 - 26 Mar 2024

The Sea of Life

Middle East Institute


Co-curated by Bahrain-based Hayfa Aljishi and MEI Arts and Culture Center Director Lyne Sneige, The Sea of Life: Modern and Contemporary Art from The Kingdom of Bahrain at the Middle East Institute features fourteen participating artists who explore their deep connection to Bahrain’s landscape, its natural resources, rituals and mythology.

The exhibit title plays on the concept of ‘The Tree of Life,’ a widespread symbol of life among some cultures and religions. On Bahrain Island, water has been this life force. In The Sea of Life, the 30 featured works explore the role of water in the artists’ lives by playing on dualities such as past and future, tradition and modernity, folktale and reality. They offer a glimpse into the legacy of Bahrain’s pioneering artists, the evolving arts scene and the manner in which younger generations are exploring new artistic expressions. Collectively, their creations convey a visual portrayal of the island, its landscape, and its potential as a source of reflection, connection, and the imagining of diverse futures.

In Roots, pioneering Bahraini Artist Nassar AlYousif explores the deep connections among family, labor, and the land, symbolized by the roots that intertwine humanity and the earth. Abdul Karim Al-Orrayed’s Untitled explores Bahrain’s urban grid, underscoring the connection between its built environment, the arid land, and the surrounding blue sea. In Standing Mobile and Waves, Rashid AlKhalifa draws on the environment for inspiration as he reflects on the duality between tradition and modernity. 

Co-curator Hayfa Aljishi said, “In my role as the founder of one of the Gulf’s first art platforms, Albareh Gallery, I have long been committed to promoting Middle Eastern artists in the region and internationally. This particular group of artists represents some of the most exciting voices out of Bahrain and I am very excited for these works to reach a Washington audience.” 

Co-curator and MEI Director of Arts and Culture Lyne Sneige added, “As a gallery dedicated to showcasing the leading artists from the Middle East, the MEI Art Gallery is proud to highlight this level and depth of talent in the Arab world and to provide an outlet for cross-cultural dialogue and connection through art.” 

Participating artists in alphabetical order: Rashid Al Khalifa, Marwa Al Khalifa, Mohammed Al Mahdi, Mariam AlNoaimi, Jaafar AlOraibi, Abdul Karim Al-Orrayed, Mashael Alsaie, Jamal AlYousif, Nasser AlYousif, Ebrahim Bu Saad, Balqees Fakhro, Aysha Hafuz, Ghada Khunji, Abbas Yousif. 

Press release from Middle East Institute

Image: Mashael Alsaie. Submerged I. 2023. 111.76 x 86.36 cm. Archival Inkjet Print. Image courtesy of the Artist