“Visual Reactions: A View from the Middle East” features more than 20 illustrations by Kuwaiti artist and graphic designer Mohammad Sharaf. Inspired by current events, Sharaf’s designs address controversial political and social topics. Sharaf’s illustrations will be on display in the UNC FedEx Global Education Center from Aug. 19 to Oct. 31.
The exhibition touches on topics ranging from women’s rights to the multiple iterations of the Arab spring in the Middle East. Sharaf’s work also portrays current events, such as Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to allow women to drive motorcycles and bicycles as long as a male guardian accompanies them.
Sharaf utilizes simple backgrounds and a purposefully limited color range, most often black, white and red, and conveys a sense of Middle Eastern humor and satire. “The work I do delivers the message that there are people in the Middle East who are not happy with what is happening,” explains Sharaf, who says his visual style is inspired in part by Russian poster artists who brought art and social activism into the public sphere. Sharaf’s work transcends the traditional public sphere and has spread via social media.
The native Kuwaiti artist now based in New York City completed his undergraduate training at the College of Arts & Sciences at the American University of Kuwait and is finishing his Master of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His award-winning work has appeared in shows from Kuwait to New York.
A free public reception and art viewing will be held on Aug. 28 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the UNC FedEx Global Education Center. Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Islamic studies at the Department of Religious Studies and director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, will provide opening remarks. Nadia Yaqub, chair of the Department of Asian Studies, will moderate a question and answer session after the keynote presentation by Mohammad Sharaf.
The FedEx Global Education Center, located at 301 Pittsboro Street in Chapel Hill, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on select Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This exhibition is hosted by the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, the Center for Global Initiatives, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and Global Relations with support from the Department of Asian Studies. Special thanks to Andy Berner, communications specialist for the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program.