Evocative storytelling is no stranger to Arab culture. Stretching from the OG One Thousand and One Nights to the contemporary broadsheet, storytelling has entwined itself not only into popular culture but has taken on new life in the form of an art practise.
The art collective Samania aims to do exactly that. Comprised of German-Berber Samira Mahboub and Hispanic-American Ania Catherine, the artistic duo ground their performance art in a theoretical framework of decolonisation and deconstructing gender.
Their work trespasses mediums, with a desert performance and movement installation in Dubai entitled Mirror Stages and One (2017), a film Hex (2017) adapting expressionist choreographer Mary Wigman’s 1926 performance, Hexentanz (witch dance) and even a fashion collaboration with Dubai-based womenswear brand Alayna.
From Vogue Arabia to The Huffington Post, their work has not only successfully translated across borders but across surfaces and embodied materials from physical movement to the printed page and digital storytelling. The very nature of their performances in themselves traverse the border of exclusivity, as whilst their backgrounds lie in academia and research, their making of art drives their theory towards a more accessible audience.
For instance, their video art piece ‘Cloth’ closely resembles Leila Ahmed’s seminal 1992 essay ‘Women and Gender in Islam’ which interrogates and unpacks connotations of the veiled women. Their video visually re-writes the essay, also modelling Chandra Mohanty’s 1988 ‘Under Western Eyes’ in its rejection of a Western image bank of representation, favouring embodied female subjectivities of lived-experience to tell their story.