Gulf Shining Abroad by Aiste A Daubaras

So true is the saying that you can not be a prophet in your own village. And indeed, upon receiving an invitation to a private viewing of Bahraini artist’s Sheik Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa (or simply Mr. Rashid Khalifa as he chooses to be known in the art world) exhibition Penumbra: Textured Shadow, Coloured Light at the Saatchi Gallery in London, I wondered why I have never seen his work exhibited in Bahrain before?


London Saatchi Gallery is a world renowned Mecca of contemporary art and it is a privilege for any artist to be invited to exhibit there. As if it was not a task challenging enough, the artist decided to step out of his comfort zone, his habitual artistic sphere, and create something entirely new. Looks like the gamble played off and the end result was truly breath-taking! The display of aluminium mesh wall works, steel grid mobiles and a colossal, walk-through maze, with an aid of a very intricate lighting casting mysterious shadows, transformed a white gallery space into a hypnotic, almost spiritual experience.

The viewer was lured into allegorical narrow alleyways, traditional in Middle Eastern architecture. And indeed, according to the artist, the mashrabiya (an element of oriental architecture) was one of the the main inspirations behind the show. The movement and viewer’s perspective, the contrasting pattern of light and shadow completed this unique concept. The effect was powerful enough to make one feel transported into a different sphere, be it a memory, an illusion or a daydream.

Yet, behind any art and beauty seemingly so effortless and pleasing to the public, lies an enormous effort uniting an original talent, flawless execution and good curatorship. In this case, the outcome could not have been better and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Praise and positive reviews flooded after the star-studded opening night, quite a lot of artworks have been reserved by collectors and modern art-museums, Christie’s (a world famous auction house) invited their clients to a private viewing and so popular was a public demand, that the gallery extended exhibition for entire month.


To mark this unprecedented success, Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK H. E. Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa held a private reception, which was attended by the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism H.E. Al Zayani, diplomats, dignitaries and Bahraini students.


Scrolling through my own pictures of an opening night and piles of favourable post-show publicity material, I could not help but wonder, does one really need to leave one’s village in order to achieve recognition and success. Or could we still hope for an equally impressive and magnificent show held by Mr. Khalifa here in our tiny Bahrain? One can always hope, at least I will…




Aisté is a Socialite, Writer, Language Tutor and Advisor for International School of Etiquette, living in Bahrain and London. To share your feedback, email: aiste.anusaite@