Utendi (2019) On-going project
50 Golborne Gallery, London

The title of the exhibition refers to the Swahili writer Fumo Liyongo’s ancient erotic poem ‘Utendi wa Mwana Manga’ (In Praise of the Arab Woman). Liyongo’s prose was first transcribed into the Arabic script, quite possibly during the time of Omani governance of parts of the East African coast during the 18th century. It prompted Ali to travel to Lamu, an island on the northern coast of Kenya, where the Swahili culture - born from multiple exchanges between mainly the Arab, Persian and East African worlds - is uniquely preserved and where she began exploring the representation and the power of the feminine presence in that ancient civilization.

The exhibition alternates selections from three series of works. Framed prints, a meter squared in size, portray sensual subterranean desire as a tableau of truncated, abstracted and adorned parts of the body. Young women are presented and juxtaposed next to verses of the poem that are carved into bespoke wooden frames made in Lamu by local artisans. These frames incorporate traditional motifs commonly found on old doors, underlining the correspondence between the representation of the feminine and the architecture and design that permeates the island. Small prints chronicle symbolic representations of the erotic, used in the poem and still very much present in contemporary Swahili language and psyche.
Large prints:

100cm x 100cm - Framed
Fine Art Archival Pigment print on Hahnemühle Pearl
Edition of 5 + 2AP

Small prints: 

30cm x 30cm - Framed
Fine Art Archival Pigment print on Hahnemühle Pearl
Edition of 10 + 1AP

Bespoke hand carved frames:

Vertical: 45.1cm x 63cm - Framed
Horizontal: 45.1cm x 86cm - Framed
Fine Art Archival Pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag
Edition of 3 + 1AP

Works for sale on Artsy

To request a price list for limited edition fine art prints please get in touch.