Thousand Year Old Female Arab Poets Inspire Contemporary Art Exhibition

By: Róisín O' Loughlin

Radical Love: Female Lust is a show of 48 female artists making work in response to breathtaking poems written by Arab women over 1,000 years ago. It came about as a response to the ever-raging criticism of female behaviour and use of stereotypes to divide and deny shared experience and humanity, something which has been aided by the burial of female voices across history. Frustrated with this, we found inspiration in those that rang out loud and proud across the Arab world in a collection by Abdullah al-Udhari ‘Classical Poems by Arab Women’. This look back and away helped illuminate something of a timeless female experience.

Luckily for us in wanting to share them with a modern audience, they read like the best Pop lyrics- short and sweet in their intense defiance, desire, lovesick longing, pride and fun. The lust-whether for sex or simply life itself-was so apparent the title suggested itself. These poems written by women ranging from slaves to wits to royals challenge preconceptions of faith, of class, of the female experience long ago and are a deliberate and timeless resistance to the silencing of females. Also, they’re just sublime in their intensity and beauty: 'I urge you to come faster than the wind, to mount my breast and firmly dig and plough my body, and don't let go until you've flushed me thrice' (I’timad Arrumaikiyya 11 C).

We wanted to show them in a way that captured their dynamic spirit and asked artists from cultures around the world, with half Arab or Muslim, to collaborate with these long gone poets, asserting their vitality in the face of those who would deny it. We chose 24 poems and sent 48 parcels around the world, each containing a poem written on two scrolls- the original Arabic and al-Udhari's English translation.

The show is a dialogue between past and present, across various cultures, using various mediums, with painters from Syria, Libya, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, USA, experimental Spanish, Egyptian, Indonesian and Turkish photographers, British African poets, British Asian illustrators, sculptors from Japan, USA and Ireland.

The art is for sale and profits go to Syrian Refugees.

-Róisín O' Loughlin

Radical Love: Female Lust

46 Female Artists
inspired by Arabic Poetry of Love & Lust

14 February – 5th March 2017
Open daily 12-8.30pm
Private view 13 February

The Crypt Gallery,
Euston Road,

For more details go to the Radical Love: Female Lust Website