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In the Vitrine

Dana Awartani
Loose Leaves.
Process, materials, sounds from Listen to my words

31 Oct 2020, Sat - 3 Jan 2021, Sun

By disclosing rarely-seen preparatory drawings, sketches, and embroidery tests from the artist’s archive, Loose Leaves offers an intimate foray into the process of making Listen to my words (2018). An immersive installation by Dana Awartani, Listen to my words combines hand-embroidered silk panels and recordings of Arabic poems recited by modern-day Saudi women to confront issues of silencing, invisibility, and gendered divisions of space deeply entrenched in the cultural fabric of the Middle East.

Drawn from the significant but scarcely documented tradition of female poets in the Arab world from the pre-Islamic era to the 12th century, the poems selected by the artist express feelings
of love, yearning, and pride. They relay modes of awareness, stances of resistance, and acts of empowerment often centred on the female body.

The distinct visual language articulated by the geometric patterns—bearers of sacred values in Islamic culture—references the ornamental motifs found on jali (or mashrabiya), lattice screens used in traditional Islamic architecture to control the circulation of air and light as well as to shield women from the male gaze.

Presented alongside the original audio recording, Loose Leaves layers a selection of preparatory studies in the enclosed space of The Vitrine to provide a glimpse of the subtle negotiations that inform Awartani’s creative journey across different techniques and materials.


The rich visual language of Dana Awartani’s (b. 1987, Saudi Arabia) paintings, sculptures, and textile installations incorporate traditional Islamic art forms into contemporary aesthetics. Engaging with the relationship between geometry and nature, she harnesses the timeless and enduring relevance of forms in order to deconstruct contemporary issues such as gender, faith, loss, and cultural destruction. Past solo exhibitions include The Silence Between Us, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2018) and Detroit Affinities: Dana Awartani, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, United States (2017). She has participated in numerous group shows and biennales such as Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, Kochi, India and the 1st Yinchuan Biennale, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China (both 2016), among others.

Dana Awartani was selected as Artist-in-Residence in the 7th cycle of NTU CCA Singapore’s Residencies Programme. Her residency could not take place due to the ongoing global pandemic. 

Loose Leaves. Process, materials, sounds from Listen to my words was realised with the support of Athr Gallery, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


A digital version of Listen to My Words was co-produced by NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) for st_age, an online platform for new commissions initiated by TBA21 as a response to the Covid-19 crisis.


Image: Dana Awartani, Study for Listen to my words, 2018, gouache on handmade paper. Courtesy the artist.