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Tucked away in a bustling enclave of the ancient capital city of Algiers stands a new art gallery.
However, Diwaniya Art Gallery is certainly not your traditional, run-of-the-mill space; instead, its founder, the renowned Algerian artist Hamza Bounoua, has come up with a vision for local art and cultural initiatives which takes out-of-the-box thinking to a new level. His aim is to plant a
new kind of seed for the visual arts and more in Algiers that will grow into a practice with a difference.
To give some context to this exciting new project, Bounoua was acutely aware that for many years, the domestic art scene had focused almost entirely on Algerian artists with western inclinations. As one of the Arab world’s foremost contemporary artists, he was convinced that the time was right for Algeria to embrace international talents from across the Arab world and beyond.
He was also keen to make Diwaniya Art Gallery a more organic and holistic project for the visual arts – one that would provide a forum of exchange for art and curatorial practice for not only the Arab world and the Middle East, but also the wider Islamic sphere.
Bounoua’s vision dovetails with other broader developments under way in
Algeria; the country is currently in the midst of change and opening up to the outside world, making it fertile ground for the new cultural and artistic movement that he envisages generating.
His far-reaching vision is reﬂected not only in the concept, but in the details too, from the name of the gallery to its logo; Al Diwaniya has its roots in the Bedouin concept of ‘majlis’, which refers to the ‘salon’ adjacent to the home, where Arabs have traditionally welcomed guests for centuries and where communal, cultural and artistic exchanges continue to take place in modern-day Gulf countries.
Having lived for many years in Kuwait and Qatar, Bounoua has set out to transport this idea to Algiers. With this in mind, he has allocated a siseable chunk of the studio to a unique, multi-functional space.
When it comes to the logo, Bounoua opts to feature his ﬁrst name, but relayed through Arabic calligraphy and as a mirror image using symmetry, thereby ensuring the themes of self-contemplation and artistic dialogue are to the fore. Al Diwaniya springs to life with a suitably symbolic inaugural show titled ‘Masa- rat’. Translating as ‘Pathways’, the exhibition aims to cement Algiers as the nexus for all MENA artists, from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon to Egypt and Iran.
Bounoua aptly chose the iconic Algerian modernist painter Baya Mahieddine as his muse to wave him off and wish him well on this new journey. The painting of a Baya woman, created in hues of blue and green, certainly seems to usher in a new artistic reckoning.
Bounoua’s vision brings to mind the words of the American poet Ezra Pound, who said: “Artists are the antennae of the race.”
Certainly, I am convinced that this is just the beginning of a new artistic and cultural dialogue and that Bounoua is ahead of the curve with this exciting new project. Dear Algiers, I cannot wait to hear your untold art stories.
Dr Ahmad Khodr Minkara
DIWANIYA ART GALLERY
Contemporary Arab & Islamic Arts
North Africa & Middle East
Les dunes n° 398 Chéraga, Algiers, Algeria