Selected from PhMuseum Days

In Kuwaiti slang the word Umbai expresses a statement of surprise at the absurd and unexpected. It is reserved only for the tongues of Kuwaiti women so much that if a man simply utters the word, they are accused of being gay. The word represents how dominant discourses regulate gender and sexuality in modern-day Kuwaiti society. In this context, artist Munirah Almehri has been interested in the ways that queer futurism becomes a crucial tool for those denied a future under the hetero-patriarchy. Operating through the anonymous, the absurd, the stereotypical, the ultra-binary, and the phantasmic, the author has created five characters in their own idealistic worlds to portray the potentiality of other ways of being. Manoeuvring between documentary photography and constructed self-portraits, the work depicts a culturally-bound expression of queer idealism.

Munirah Almehri (Kuwait, 2000) is a photographer based in London, whose work has been published locally and internationally. Her current project, Umbai, explores new ways of being through constructed self-portraits that present culturally-bound expressions of queerness. Her previous work deals with the production of speculative “anarchives” to portray Kuwait’s relationship between nationalism, religion, and modernity. In response to her interests in technocolonialism and datafication as disciplinary power, she rearranges certain signs of the past into the present to criticise the false promise of progress through technology. In 2022 Almehri graduated from the Goldsmiths University of London with a Bachelor in Media and Communications.

From 23 September to 2 October 2022 the second edition of the PhMuseum Days photography festival will take place at DumBO space in Bologna, Italy. The event is curated and organized by PhMuseum, an incubator of photographic talents, with the aim of becoming one of the most interesting festivals on the European calendar while contributing to placing Bologna among the cities of reference for contemporary photography.

The chosen theme is Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow, intended as an opportunity to reflect on the powerful moment of change we are living through. The event will be a playground for professionals and a moment of discovery for those who want to get closer to photography and the visual arts. The program includes individual exhibitions, a collective installation, portfolio reviews, screenings, performances and a space dedicated to independent publishing.

Copyright © Munirah Almehri, all rights reserved

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