Reviving lost tales through conceptual art

BY MAZOUN AL GHAILANI

An old Omani tale named “The Vow baby” tells us about an Omani woman who was deprived of motherhood. In the past, women were blamed for their inability to procreate, and this woman desperately wanted a child. One day, she went to the wilderness to collect wood from the Sidr and Acacia trees.

She wantonly said that if Allah blessed her with a baby girl, she will make her marry the falcon who had sheltered in one of the Acacia trees. It was said that this falcon is a wizard. After some time, that’s what happened, Allah blessed that woman a beautiful girl. But the falcon did not forget what the mother vowed. He came asking to marry that beautiful girl. So the daughter became a victim of that ominous vow.

“I began to imagine how harsh this vow would determine the fate of that beautiful girl! Although the tale is imaginative and illogical, and how much that girl would suffer the pain of fate, and what would be her fetus when she marries the falcon!,” Safa al Fahdi, an Omani artist said.
The conceptual artist Safa al Fahdi, embodied this tale in a combination of artwork, mixed with a song that the women in the past sang when a baby goes to sleep, documenting those traditional anthems that were preserved and survived until today.
She inspires the Vow baby tale from the ancient Omani tales. She is very keen to show the legacies of Omani culture in her artwork. Taking the artistic responsibility to preserve the ancient tales that are almost disappearing and replaced according to the modern requirements of the current era she said.
“I chose a baby’s (fetus) symbolism to express the essence of the story. However, the mother’s utmost wishes were to have a child, except that her daughter had a falcon’s baby, but her wish was to have a human child. The repetition of the baby symbolism is an affirmation of the true meaning for the craving desire to have a normal child,” Safa shared.
Artist Safa has studied art and she is a researcher of the conceptual art and folklore. She began her first step in conceptual art after reading about psychology and the problems that people suffer from.
She made a survey study on the most important psychological problems that society suffers from in general, then she wrote about these problems and extracted emotions from them. She got the assistant of a photographer friend who captured the works of Safa while attempting to convey the feelings that she wanted to represent.
“I found that I could send a specific message through conceptual art. It addresses an issue, problem, or phenomenon that I would like to highlight in a way that reaches the audience logically and touches their feelings smoothly. I also take complete freedom to tell my own beliefs through this art. In my view, I see it as a powerful means of displaying art,” Safa added.
Her focus usually is the life’s reflections, digging into myths, tales and societal beliefs, concepts that are related to oneself.
The artwork “what is (still) hidden is more than what has been revealed ” tells implicitly the situations of people in our current reality and the cohesion of societies. The work includes three windows that symbolize three cases which convey the different conditions of people in societies.
The decorative iron fence symbolizes safety, reassurance and beauty. However, what is hidden behind this? what is visible in front of us doesn’t reflect the real situation of people. This artwork sends the viewer a message that we must work on what is hidden and make it be better,” she said.