ZENA ASSI

Al Kouwa Fi Yad El Mar2a

(The Force is in the Hands of the Woman)

Mixed media (indian ink, acrylic, pochoir, spray paint, paper collage, felt pen, stamps) on canvas

100 x 100 cm

The title of this piece "Al Kouwa Fi Yad El Mar2a", meaning "the force is in the hand of the woman," is directly taken from a slogan sprayed on a wall of Hamra’s street in Beirut. This tagger must have imagined a strong woman, staring at you straight in the eyes, confronting her secrets, defying her culture, challenging her scars and enjoying her complexity.  I always go back to see if it is still out there, claiming high and bright the power of women!  Next to it there is another one stating "fight rape", but unfortunately this one has lately been covered in black spray in a desperate attempt to erase it.

Al Kouwa Fi Yad El Mar2a, Zena Assi

Every now and then, I pass by the streets of Beirut with my camera, and I take pictures of the graffiti on the walls. The tags keep changing so rapidly . . . Some old ones survive somehow, but this is the thing with graffiti, their beauty resides in the fact that they are fragile, completely public and unprotected. These pictures I constantly collect, end up being part of my work, they build my cities and dress my portraits . . . like the saying "if only walls could talk". Our city walls tell so many stories, sometimes they even register the history of a country more reliably than any history book. They can translate the social, political, cultural and religious background of the city’s inhabitants.

© Gilbert Hage

Born in Lebanon, in 1974, Zena Assi lives and works between Beirut and London. She graduated with honors from l’Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts (ALBA) and taught in different universities. Her pieces are punctuated by strong visual references to her native Beirut and the predicament of its citizens. The artist uses various supports and mediums to document and explore the cultural and social changes of her country. Her work takes shape in installation, animation, sculpture, and mainly paintings on canvas. Themes that are central to her vision include present-day issues related to countries in the Middle East as they battle with internal strife and civilian unrest.

Many of her pieces were repeatedly shown in different international auction houses (Christie’s Dubai, Sotheby’s London, and Bonhams London) and are part of various public as well as private collections. Assi has exhibited in solo as well as collective shows across Europe, the Middle East and the United States of America,  including: Alwane Gallery (Beirut, Lebanon), Art13 & Art14 London Fair (London, UK), Artsawa gallery (Dubai, UAE), Espace Claude Lemand (Paris, France), Rebirth Beirut Exhibition Center (Beirut, Lebanon), Contemporary Art Platform Gallery Space (Kuwait) and Subtitled (APEAL), Royal College of Art (London, UK).