Meet the Women Shaping Bahrain’s Art Scene

Kaneka Subberwal and Amal Khalaf are transforming the tiny island

With Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art buzzing with talent every year, the Gulf’s art scene is booming. Even though the UAE swallows the limelight as the region’s biggest art scene, its much smaller neighbour Bahrain, looks to be shaping its own (equally thriving) scene… and it’s all thanks to two women.

Kaneka Subberwal and Amal Khalaf are the two trailblazing art enthusiasts spearheading Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB), the nation’s most prominent art fair.

Subberwal is no stranger to the art scene, having run Art Select—one of Bahrain’s leading consultancy firms. While Khalaf currently works as a curator at London institution, the Serpentine.


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Under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Subberwal and Khalf organized the first edition of ArtBAB in 2015. Since then, the fair is showing no sign of slowing down with plans to take the travelling fair to Singapore and London, it’ll be putting a much-needed and well-deserved spotlight on Bahraini talent on an international scale.

When not on the road, ArtBAB brings together artists from across the globe to the tiny island nation. Their third edition opened in Manama last year and brought together local and international talent, from France, the UK and India as well as the UAE.


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Bahrain Art Week, London showcases the works of some of the most talented established and emerging contemporary artists of the Kingdom at the art fair in London. Hala Khaiksow (@halakaiksow ): Beginning her journey as a designer, she discovered beauty in everyday objects. Her artwork reflects her approach towards thoughtful luxury and also informs her passion for transforming unexpected materials through age-old craft traditions. Marwa Al Khalifa: As a prominent Bahraini mixed media artist and photographer, she is known for pushing boundaries, incorporating different materials and techniques in her work, creating a spiritual aura. Mohamed Al Mahdi(@mohd_art): An artist and designer, Al Mahdi’s acrylic paintings are characterized by his subtle interpretations of dreams and visions, likened to those of children. Nabeela Al Khayer (@nabeelaalkhayer ): A free-spirited traditional Artist, Nabeela Al Khayer is driven by a fierce passion to inspire and empower women in a patriarchal society. Nabeela developed her skills at Slade School of Fine Art in London and she creates stories of magic with bright and expressive female characters in her work. #ArtBAB #BahrainArtWeekLondon #Accumulation #Artselect #Instaart #Exhibition #ArtGallery #Abstarct #ARTNews #Artoftheday #Painting #Artsit #BahrainArtist @artselectbh @tamkeenbahrain

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Held every March, this year’s edition is fast approaching. With a broad theme around the concept of ‘legacy’, the show’s curators will be putting together an exhibition entilted Accumulation: Legacy and Memory, that will see some of Bahrain’s best-known contemporary artists interpret the theme in to various mediums.

Art Bahrain Across Borders will run from March 6 – 10 at Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.



Photo courtesy of Inzajeano Latif

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