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The Department of Arabic and the Arabic Flagship Program hosted Arab-American artist Helen Zughaib for a guest lecture on Immigrant Art and Identity on Tuesday, September 27.
Renowned for her artwork that investigates the burdened relationship between the United States and the Middle East, Zughaib characterizes her artwork as an expression of Arab-immigrant experiences. Zughaib’s artwork is displayed in several prominent, international institutions, such as the White House, Library of Congress, and World Bank. Notably, President Barak Obama gave Zughaib’s painting “Midnight Prayers” to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki as an official gift from the United States.

Using gouache and ink on paper, Zughaib illuminates the dark spaces of war and loss with vibrant colors and geometric shapes. Several of Zughaib’s pieces focus on the female experience of war in the Middle East. “Part of my observations in the Middle East and Palestine is seeing the strength of women,” says Zughaib. “I want to portray their beauty and resilience” against the hardships of war and American, conceptualized fear of the Muslim-Arab woman. Family tradition deeply influences Zughaib’s work, where she strives to portray an Arab-immigrant experience that reclaims rights to self-expression and definition. Often, Zughaib’s work transforms subject, space, and perspective, as she differentiates between concepts of owned and stolen Arab-immigrant identity in order to, as Zughaib says, “Express our point of view rather than [listen to someone] telling us our point of view.”  

Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012