The Manifesting The Unseen collective of established and emerging Muslim women artists first came together in 2018 for an exhibition in London where they invited the viewer to see the unseen and challenge their perceptions of Islam and Muslim women. It began as a discussion on the invisibility of marginalised identities in public space and how for many in the West, Islamic art remains a hidden treasure. Catching the attention of local artist Dr Nazneen Ahmed and our curator Kate Maple, the gallery invited Curator Nazia Mirza and the Manifesting The Unseen collective to create a Southampton located version of the exhibition. The collective produced ACE supported new work inspired by the city’s maritime history and its reputation as the ‘Gateway to the World’. This deep connection to the sea and the stars, that have for centuries been used to navigate and explore the world, is one shared with Islam. In particular, a stunning site specific installation was created by Sara Choudhrey in the entrance to the exhibition.
This exhibition highlighted the artistic work of Muslim women and included local artists, largely absent from the city’s established cultural spaces. This project sought to make the creativity of British Muslim women artists visible to the city of Southampton and the wider Hampshire community, thereby fostering greater appreciation of the cultures of the growing British Muslim communities in the region.
A relationship that started before, and survived, the pandemic, bore new collaborations in the resulting exhibition kindly shown at the Southampton City Art Gallery, after the closure of Solent Showcase Gallery's space in lockdown. A busy closing celebration marked the importance of a show like this in Southampton, and in keeping with the rich tradition of poetry in the Muslim world, featured a Mehfil (recital) of new commissioned work.
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