Art Opening: Emna Zghal - The Prophet of Black Folk

Wed, October 29, 2003 6:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Exhibition: October 27 – November 29, 2003

Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri 12-5pm Sat 12-6pm

Opening Reception: Wednesday, October 29th, 6-8 PM

ALWAN for the Arts, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of the arts from the Arab world and Iran, is pleased to announce the inauguration of its new exhibition space with Emna Zghal’s print series The Prophet of Black Folk. This series is inspired by the recent work of the poet Adonis (Ali Ahmed Said), one of the most revered contemporary Arab writers. Zghal brings to our attention Adonis’ praise of Ali Ibn Muhammad, a 9th century Iraqi poet who led an African slave revolt for fourteen years against Abbasid rulers. The Zanj people in East Africa were taken as slaves to Iraq to clear the salt from the soil to allow for cultivation. During their revolt, the Zanj were able to build their capital, mint coins, and rule the city of Basra for ten years before being crushed by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muwaffaq in 883 A.D. Many poets and writers from the Arab world consider the revolt to be a symbol of resistance and empowerment. Zanj is the Arabic word used today to mean black people. In recognition of Ali’s bravery, and in honor of his contemporaries who wanted to ordain him as prophet, Adonis pays homage to Ali, Prophet of Black Folk, in one of his most complex poetic ruminations to date.

Emna Zghal’s series includes 12 plates, each bearing an image and a poem by Adonis in Arabic. To complement the Arabic, Zghal has translated the poems into English. Her translation capitalizes on W.E.B. Dubois’ phrase Black Folk to connect the struggle for dignity of peoples of African descent across centuries and continents. The imagery in the series was also influenced by Zghal’s appreciation of the landscape in New Hampshire while working at the MacDowell Colony. Her inventive printing techniques beautifully combine art, literature, and history to offer a multi-textured understanding that vivifies the present moment.

Emna Zghal is a Tunisian artist living in New York. She received her art training both in Tunisia and the United States. She is widely exhibited in the U.S. and abroad, and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Csenter, and The Weir Farm Trust. Reviews of her exhibits were published in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and many other publications in Tunisia and France. To learn more about the exhibit and her previous work, visit the web site:

Last updated: 2007-11-27 10:40:49

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