Thuraya Al Baqsami… Art of Resistance
She was born in a family of artists, her late grandfather Ahmed Abdul Khaleq Al-Banna, was an architect and an art lover. She then grew up in an artistic atmosphere. Her twin sister Farida is an artist, and art and drawing run in her family. This atmosphere helped her a lot and encouraged her to participate in exhibitions while she was still in complementary and secondary classes. After that she studied arts and was one of those girls who wanted to do nothing in their lives but painting and becoming an artist.
Art did not change the course of her life, it is her life and she is very happy to have chosen this path and was able through her art career to achieve much for herself and her homeland. Her life was very enjoyable because she is an artist and practices something she loves.
Through your exhibitions in many countries, you showed the artistic face of Kuwait to the world, can you tell us about the messages you made sure to include in your artworks and that emanate from your love and belonging to Kuwait?
In my local and international exhibitions, I always make sure to present the best of my works and the human occupies a significant part of them. After the liberation of Kuwait, my 85 paintings which I executed during the occupation and exhibited in many countries of the world, included a message that reflected the suffering of the Kuwaiti people and my own suffering as a Kuwaiti woman, especially that three days before the liberation my husband was captured in Basra for more than two months. What I would like to say is that through my artistic works that I present in the countries of the world, I make sure to introduce myself as a visual artist, and I show my style, aspirations and thoughts with the human as the main focus, whether he is captivated, living under oppression and occupation or even free. I care about the Kuwaiti citizen and his aspirations especially the Kuwaiti woman who fills a great part of my artworks and has a special place in my heart and is a beautiful, intelligent and brilliant being.
You write and compose poetry, to what extent is there a link between writing, poetry and drawing?
I write at night or during my travels and I draw during the day. Composing poetry and writing stories and novels are works that need a creative side, a fertile imagination and a deep thinking. The drawing tools are different, and the expertise and technical abilities, together with the experience in the use of raw materials, play a role in the composition of the artwork and that is totally different from paper, language and imagination. When I write as an artist, my imagination helps me a lot as well as my good language skills, and many of those who read my writings said they felt that in my writings there is a plastic artist.
Quote: “Art needs big commitment & effort, follow up and continuity. The ultimate Artist’s treasure is the experience accumulated during the journey he lived.”
You had an experience with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and wrote books about this experience entitled “Shoumou’ Al Saradib”, “Mouzakkarat Fattouma” and “Raheel Al Nawafez”, were you willing to narrate and transfer your experience? Or only documenting what happened?
I’ve witnessed the Iraqi invasion from its beginning until its end and went through million of experiences, I was a mother and a wife and lived very difficult conditions like all the Kuwaiti people who was subject to occupation, fear and horror, and at the time I couldn’t express unless through drawing symbols. Each word was met by a bullet and I felt this pain inside me, and after liberation I began to write because I had to show the world what I have witnessed, not my patriotism nor my human sense will go with me to the grave, so I had to reach the world. The result was my book entitled “Shoumou’ Al Saradib” that won an award from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences for being the best literature work talking about the occupation and it was translated into 6 international languages. I also wrote “Mouzakkarat Fattouma Al Kuwaitiya Al Saghira” and it was translated into Persian. Another book called “Raheel Al Nawafez” was released and it was a collection of small stories about the occupation. As well as my painting “No to the occupation” that I executed on the fifth day of occupation and was distributed as a poster among the resistance members and one of them was arrested during the distribution and was executed. “No to the Occupation” was recently displayed at an exhibition in New York entitled “No to Occupation”, and it’s a work I am very proud of. The occupation was a painful and difficult experience, but I’m happy as an artist and writer to have been in Kuwait and able to live this experience and document it through my work.
How does the country manifest through your works? What is the country for you?
The country for me is a great and wonderful thing, and there is no word that can explain the meaning of the homeland. The country is the land, the belonging and our ability as citizens to be attached to the place we belong to. The feeling of patriotism is beautiful and the patriotic person is the one who cares about the reputation of his homeland, works, produces, gives and does not retire from this life without leaving something beautiful to his homeland. The most wonderful patriotic feeling that I experienced was during the occupation period. I had a wonderful feeling that Kuwait is a one piece and we were all united and loving each other and ready to eliminate all the ridiculous and frivolous differences that existed and accumulated with the social diseases so we become one body.
Your artistic career was exhibited at the Sharjah Art Museum under the title “Alamat Fariqa”. Could you tell us more about the main works of the exhibition?
The exhibition “Alamat Fariqa” at Sharjah Museum was held during last October and lasted for two and a half months. I was selected from the State of Kuwait since my art made a certain difference in the region. The exhibition consisted of 4 floors with 32 showrooms that included 320 works of art, as well as a special film about the exhibition and a book. And for the first time, a collection of the press drawings I made for books and magazines was exhibited. There was as well a special aisle for my works during the occupation period, including a letter I wrote during my husband’s arrest, along with an archive of my personal photographs and drawings. My exhibited works dated from 1964 to 2017 and the exhibition was for me a journey. The great thing is that the museum management chose my daughter, Dr. Munira Al Ghadiri as the responsible of the exhibition. She was the one who have chosen the paintings, organized them, supervised the writings, contributed to it and directed the documentary about me. I was very glad to see my daughter the coordinator since no one could understand my art works as she does and she already organized an exhibition for me in 2011 at the Kuwait Art Gallery.
The Sharjah exhibition is very important to me and my artistic history and the fact that Sharjah has chosen me and honored me in this beautiful way is amazing, and The New York Times has previously chosen my exhibition among one of the best personal exhibitions held in 2017 and this is a beautiful appreciation by the international press towards an Arab artist. As to the Sharjah Exhibition, it documents a long journey of almost 50 years and my exhibited works represent the stages of my life as a plastic artist and there was a great interest from the media in my work and exhibition. During the exhibition I gave a lecture about my career and held workshops for young artists and artists with special needs.
Quote:” The invasion was a hurtful experience, however, I am happy as an artist and a writer that I was in Kuwait and I was able to live this experience and document it through my work”.
After a career of 50-year with painting and creativity, what do you say about art and to novice artists?
My career has exceeded 50 years and my exhibition in Sharjah this year reveals my artistic path since I was 13 years old till this day. For young or novice artists, I would like to tell them that the beginnings are always difficult and disturbing, but within every young man or even amateur artist, there is a dream he will one day realize, and this does not happen by magic or miracle but by knowledge, education, perseverance and experience and never giving up to disappointments. There will always be frustrations and failures waiting for us in every attempt but this must be a motivation to look for a greater success. And I tell them not to urge fame or the title of artist because titles come after work and there are young artists who are very talented and their works very beautiful and promising.
You’ve got many awards, which one is the closest to your heart and reminds you of a beautiful memory?
Among the awards I received, I loved the one I got from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences for my book “Shoumou’ Al Saradeeb”, because this award was an appreciation to me as an artist and a human who lived the plight of a whole people and documented it through literary writings. I also appreciated the “Tribia Award”, which was granted to me by an art foundation as an international prize. The first prize I received means a lot to me as well, it was a bronze prize from the Fine Arts Association in 1968.
Quote: “What I have presented through my journey of 50 years is the beginning and am looking forward for 50 years more, maybe then I can accomplish a small part of my aspirations.”
How does your painting concept evolve from the start to the execution?
Sometimes, I put small lines then start with white papers. I may completely destroy the whole plan or add things and cancel others. The art journey begins with something and ends with something else but it is very rare for me to throw anything in the trash. During drawing I like to enjoy what I’m doing and listen to beautiful music with a fruit dish and live with my artwork away from everything outside. I would like to point out here that I can draw among a group of people or individually.
You have documented with your brush many stages and phases, which ones left an impact that is still engraved in your mind and soul?
The stage of occupation is the only stage that has been deeply engraved in my memory. After the liberation for years I have found it very difficult to get rid of the trauma we experienced. In the days of the occupation I used to paint people in a way that smells death and I symbolized the occupying soldiers with lizards, scorpions. As for the country I used to draw magnificent and beautiful deers. I was drawing all the time to save my mental health but at the same time I was afraid to be frank because any direct meaning would be dangerous to my family. I still remember the occupation soldiers entering my studio where there were pictures of some members of the resistance executed and that I painted in the form of mummies without hair. The only question the soldiers asked was: Why are they without hair?
After the liberation, I exhibited my works in many states and organized lectures to talk about my experiences. A year ago, I was invited to the Sharjah Museum to talk about my experience during the period of occupation and there are many people in the world who have no idea about the extent of the tragedy experienced by the people of Kuwait and as an artist and writer, I have this ability to demonstrate through my artistic work and my personal experience the extent of the suffering we have experienced and its dimensions.
Quote: “I studies book drawings in Moscow University, which opened the door for me to study the history of fashion, this part fascinated me & grabbed my attention. I do enjoy watching the latest updates on fashion even if I don’t apply it”.
What are your future works and projects?
I am working on a very huge project right now. I started with it a year and a half ago, and it’s an exhibition that will see the light in 2018 and it will be a big event. I have already reached the final stages. I would like to say that the artist should not put a limit to himself and the summit has a room for all. I feel happy when I meet young artists and bless their ambition and creativity and there is in Kuwait a large number of Kuwaiti veteran and young artists who possess beautiful creative energies and I hope they will be appreciated and attract more attention in order to get more opportunities.
Any last idea you would like to share with us?
The most beautiful 3 paintings in my life are my three daughters Fatima, Ghadir and Munira. Munira holds a doctorate from the University of Tokyo, she’s a distinguished sculptural artist. Fatima is well known in the field of music. As for Ghadir, she’s a professional in the science field. They appreciate my art a lot and support me. Finally I would like to thank you for hosting me in your beautiful magazine.
Quote:” Designing is a beautiful and elegant art with huge creative side to It, it gives women vital feelings and that’s the most important thing.