Jameel Prize 5 at the V&A

To be honest, I ran into the Jameel Prize exhibition by chance. I sought refuge from the heat at the V&A during the week. The galleries were not that busy as most people sit at the garden these days, enjoying the pool. Jameel Prize is right by the main entrance and it’s free, so why not?

Entrance of Jameel Prize 5 exhibition at the V&A

When I leave an exhibition I want to have at least one thing stuck in my visual memory. There is nothing worse than struggling to remember what you saw a week later. It’s just like your whole effort to be cultural instead of going out for a drink was a waste.

Inside the Jameel Prize 5 exhibitionjameel-inside-3jameel-inside-2

There were three things that stayed with me, and that’s definitely a win because my relationship with most contemporary art can be summarised to: “nice, but I don’t get it”.

First a few things for Jameel Prize. Jameel Prize is an international award for art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. It started in 2009 and it takes place every two years. The winner gets £25,000 and this year there were two winners, the artist Mehdi Moutashar and the architect Marina Tabassum.


When you first enter the exhibition, right in the middle of the space, there is a screening of beautifully crafted videos featuring each of the eight artists. To look at the entries, you can walk either left or right. I was immediately drawn left, struck by a painting with black-haired women, thick eye brows, red lips and calm eyes.

Hayv Kahraman_The Translator_2015_Oil on linen_249 x 193 cm4
Hayv Kahraman, The Translator, from the series How Iraqi Are You?, 2015,oils on linen.

What attracts me to this painting is the calmness and minimalism of the female figures. Each dress has Islamic patterns, a brilliant way to mix traditional and make it look contemporary. The colour combinations are simply stunning.



All women look the same, except for their dresses. Does Hayv Kahraman suggest that to be a true Iraqi woman one needs to look like everyone else, and can only express themselves through their clothes?

I am also wondering why she chose to have one woman standing, as if she is a leader, pointing towards the women with both hands while everyone else is kneeling. Is she instructing what a true Iraqi woman should look like? It is hard to miss the melancholy on their faces.



In other words, don’t just take a photo of this on your phone and move on. You’ll want to see the details on Shawl by naqsh collection.

naqsh collective, Shawl, 2015, walnut wood, paint and brass
naqsh collective, Shawl, 2015, walnut wood, paint and brass

I find the embroidery motifs on this piece extremely meditative. If I had a yoga studio this would be my top decorative choice. The combination of wood, patterns and brass elements only adds to this effect. Again, tradition meets contemporary techniques: the patterns were taken from traditional clothes of Palestinian women and were laser-cut into the wood.

Do step closer and you’ll see that the motifs are not clearly shaped everywhere. Shawl, shows how worn the motifs were on the dresses, reflecting on the hardships of Palestinian women.



Would you have thought that these are hats? I thought they looked like egg-shaped sculptures. This installation by Younes Rahmoun is in a separate space, where you can have some privacy to delve into the mystic of it.

Younes Rahmoun, Tâqiya-Nôr (Hat-light), 2016, multimedia installation
Younes Rahmoun, Tâqiya-Nôr (Hat-light), 2016, multimedia installation

The hats are  worn by Moroccan men, and they are 77, an odd number you will notice, as the artist prefers the infinity of their division. The hats are connected by cables, referring to one faith being shared by many and all patterns created are different.

Perfect hygge spot, if you ask me.

To find out more about the Jameel Prize 5 entries and to watch all videos screened at the exhibition visit the V&A website.
On now until Sunday 25 November 2018

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