Sharjah Biennial: Maitha Abdalla

1 February - 1 June 2023

Maitha Abdalla is an interdisciplinary artist who utilises cultural narratives rooted in notions of nostalgia, memory and folklore to question the dynamics of power often represented in parables. Taking inspiration from traditional storytelling across varied cultures, Abdalla approaches themes of social and political identity through the theatrical narratives constructed within her work. Conflating metaphors sourced from European and Emirati mythology, the artist intentionally blurs the distinctions between eastern and western perspectives, producing surreal tableaus that obscure the supposedly well-defined bounds of creative disciplines.


At Sharjah Biennial 15, Abdalla presents Will The Gods Belong? (2023), a site-specific, multidisciplinary installation occupying the central open-air courtyard and lateral rooms of Bait Hussein Makrani. Arising from the notion that multiple personas can coexist and cohere within the human psyche—at once distinct and intertwined, each with competing desires and overlapping impulses—the project animates the dualities of the mind. Obscuring the boundary between reality and fantasy, the installation externalises these psychic tensions in the form of a theatrical scene populated by zoomorphic characters that are simultaneously oppositional to and inextricable from one another. The figure of a rooster evokes purity and innocence, eager to be led and therefore vulnerable to coercion and manipulation; that of a pig, meanwhile, embodies sin and hegemony. Both manifestations of Abdalla’s perceived inner self, these Manichean characters engage in a power struggle that unfolds through Under the Sheets (2023), a single-channel video, and a series of sculptures and a large-scale oil-on-canvas painting titled The Escaping Shepherd (2023). Surreal and uncanny, these elements invite viewers to reflect on the ambivalences of identity and the complexity of selfhood.