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“Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project”: the initiative that brings together works created during the lockdown by more than 50 Middle Eastern artists.

Reflecting the world around us, art documents the times, and the personal, social, environmental and political issues related to them. But how can artists create and transmit when they have been, like the rest of the world, isolated? Abed Al Kadiri, artist, director and co-founder of the Lebanese publishing house Dongola Limited Editions, questions the power of creativity through the initiative "Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project" and brings together more than 50 artists from the Middle East. 

Encouraging artistic connection during confinement is the mission of the Beirut-based publishing house Dongola Limited Editions. While the world was at a standstill, Abed Al Kadiri wanted to reach out to his artist friends scattered in different cities. How did he do it? By sending each of them a hand-made and hand-stitched book, on which the artist is free to express himself as he wishes. No artistic parameters were required. The only instruction? To create. At the end of the project, the completed works will then be compiled and published as a limited edition book. 

An opportunity to admire the work of some of the Saudi artists who took part in the initiative! This is the case of Ahmed Mater and Lulwah Al Homoud, both confined to Riyadh. A former doctor, Ahmed Mater, documents the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia through sculpture, video and photography. Lulwah al Homoud, for her part, is renowned for her abstract and complex works based on Arabic letters. The project also includes the participation of Faisal Samra. Born in Bahrain, the Saudi-born artist is known for his photographic and video creations denouncing the manipulation of mass media and advertising. A variety of universes that make up the power of “Cities Under Quarantine: The MailBox Project”. Zoom on this innovative concept with Abed Al Kadiri, artist and co-founder of Dongola Limited Editions. 

Why did you start an art project related to containment? 

The launch of this project was not done intentionally. The idea came organically, when I myself worked on an artist’s book at the beginning of the confinement. I found that it was an excellent way to deal with the state of isolation and loneliness. As the days went by, I realized that this medium helped me to develop a new awareness. This format, more intimate, favours concentration and allowed me to rethink my practice. The experience was striking. That’s why I wanted to invite my artist friends to share the same dynamic. 

 

Faisal Samra

What were the things you wanted to bring out? 

Although the project is a direct response to the pandemic, it was not a prerequisite. The artists were free to choose any subject. But it must be admitted that the current health crisis is probably the most significant event of our century. So I wanted “Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project” to document how my peers, confined to different cities, interact with current events and this strange context. At Dongola, we are deeply convinced of the powerful impact that artist’s books can have. For us, it is a concrete, solid and profound communication support. This initiative was the ideal opportunity to promote this medium, and through it, the artist’s ideas and technique. All this in difficult circumstances. 

 

How did the artists welcome this initiative? 

The first artists to whom we proposed the concept reacted very enthusiastically. This encouraged us to contact many others. As a result, the project later expanded to more than 50 participants. Struck by a feeling of alienation at the beginning of the confinement, the artists perceived the book as a humanized object and proof that, somewhere, artistic creation was expected and always appreciated. In a period when art developed virtually, the materiality of the book gave confidence in a tangible world. 

 

“ Cities Under Quarantine : The MailBox Project ”

Dongola Limited Editions

www.dongola.com