Award: Artist Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Visual Arts
Project Collaborator(s):
City/Town: Tucson
Year: 2018
Artist Website:

The figure in my images acts as a surrogate for both an individual and a community in negotiation of the issues I’m addressing: costume, performance, and physical markings on my body hints at the ethnic, gendered, or geographic specificity.

Sama Alshaibi’s photography, videos, and installations explore spaces of conflict and the human struggles that arise in the aftermath of war and exile. Born in Basra, Iraq in 1973 to an Iraqi father and Palestinian mother, Alshaibi draws from her experiences as a political refugee and now a naturalized U.S. citizen by using her own body as an allegorical site to make the byproducts of conflict visible.

Her proposed project “”Carry Over”” will consist of two elements: sixteen photographic gum-prints (a historical, non-silver printing process the artist will employ to evoke colonial photographs of Middle Eastern women as supposed characterizations of the region) and 8 constructed sculptural headdresses, echoing historical pictures of women of the region carrying vessels of bread and water on their heads and contemporary images suggesting a chaotic existence under threat of displacement. The headdresses will be worn by the artist in the photographs and displayed alongside the photographs in future exhibitions. Through this work, the artist aims to resist superficial analysis that reduces Middle Eastern women’s rights and opportunities to what they wear, which keeps them affixed to assumed subordinate positions in the imagination of others.

“Sabkhat al Milh” (Arabic for: Salt Flats) by Sama Alshaibi
Chromogenic print face mounted to plexi Diasec.
47 inches in diameter.
From the project “Silsila.”

“The Frontline” by Sama Alshaibi
Digital Archival Pigment Print. 40×60 inches.
From the project “Between Two Rivers: Revisited”.

“SWELL – Model of Motions” by Sama Alshaibi and Michael Fadel

Premiered at International Symposium of Electronic Arts in Dubai in 2014 multi-media installation comprised of ‘Swell’ – a kinetic wood and metal vessel filled with white sand that seesaws as if gently rocking over the waves of a sea, while also undulating the sand through a second kinetic mechanism inside the boat. The installation also includes a video art work, ‘Footsteps’, that features a male protagonist futilely rowing an oar in an endless white desert. The figure multiplies over time, alluding to Islamic art in which the the singular mirrors upon itself, creating formations that suggests an extension towards the divine. Swell and Footsteps are connected by a rustic ship anchor partially buried in white sand on the ground, and linked together by a metal chain. Visit Sama Alshaibi’s website to learn more about “SWELL – Model of Motions”

Sama Alshaibi is Professor and Co-Chair of Photography at University of Arizona, Tucson, where she was granted the title as “1885 Distinguished Scholar”. Her work has been featured in Focal Plane, Photo District News, L’Oile de la Photographie, Lensculture, NY Times, Ibraaz, Bluin Artinfo, Contact Sheet, Contemporary Practices, Harpar’s Bazaar, The Guardian, CNN, Huffington Post and Hysteria. Her public collections include Houston Museum of Fine Art, Lightwork, Barjeel Art Foundation, Nadour Collection, En Foco Collection, Khaled Shoman Collection, Salsali Museum and the Museum of Tunisia.

Banner image: “Ma Lam Tabki” (Arabic for: Unless Weeping), 2014. Chromogenic print face mounted to plexi Diasec. 65 inches x 98 inches. From the project “Silsila”