By Samie Al-Dulaimi
(with photos) KUWAIT, Oct 7 (KUNA) -- As part of an American family that has for five generations and over 160 years lived happily in the Arab world, the Seelye sisters have taken it upon themselves to shed light, through art, on their family interactions on a personal level with the people of the region.
"This is our second exhibition after Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). We hope to take it around the region and also to America, because one of our main targets is an American audience. We want Americans to learn a lot more about this region which we think is so rich, so important and so misunderstood," Kate told KUNA at her and her sister's gallery, hosted by Kuwaiti non-profit modern and contemporary art venue, Contemporary Art Platform.
"After 9/11, when relations were very strained between America and the Arab world, and American perceptions of the Arab world were maybe at an all-time low, we thought let's take this material because it shows such a positive past, such a positive relationship between Americans and Arabs, so let's do something with it." The project started out as Kate's documentary of old videos and photographs, which remained unfinished, until sister Ammanda proposed its transformation into art.
The exhibition includes historic portraits, collages and videos of personal accounts involving different generations of the family during their stay in different parts of the Arab world, including Kuwait.
Asked about their fondest memories during their stay, Ammanda - whose name is spelt with a double m like in the capital of Jordan, Amman - said she remembers "the hospitality and warmth we received from the people throughout the many countries I stayed in, including Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. We were so well received and so welcomed." Her father and mother had many Arab friends, whose homes they were invited to, she remembers. "They weren't just there as outsiders, they were welcomed as insiders," she says.
Ammanda in particular spent four years in Kuwait as a child from 1956 to 1960, just before the US was represented by an embassy. "My father was the fourth US Consul to Kuwait, and so I spent very wonderful years growing up on the sea in the Gulf and have very fond memories of that. Kuwait has changed quite a bit since then.
Asked which artwork was the closest to her heart, she said that it was one of her great, great grandfather and his wife, who were the very first members of family members to have moved to the region, settling in Mosul, Iraq.
On the technique she used, Ammanda said "they are presented in an image here where I took the original daguerreotype photograph from 1848 and I blew it up on a digital canvas. I paint on top, I silk-screen on top, I do collage on top, creating a narrative about these wonderful ancestors.
Pointing to the picture, she adds "essentially you can see here, some images of Persian miniatures of pots, rugs and bowls and I superimposed those on top, evoking things they might have brought with them on their journey, and I painted on top images of a boat which symbolizes journey and talks about this world of exploration.
Asked which of her artworks represents best the theme of East meets West, she said it was one of her mother on a boat in 1950s Kuwait. Over her mother's head is an American and old Kuwaiti flag joined together in the middle. "I created one flag - a flag of coexistence," she said, with a look of pride and hope. (end) sd KUNA 071016 Oct 13NNNN