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August 22, 2023

Archiving 12 years of struggle, Aya Abdallah, MFA Digital + Media ’24

by ayaabdallahrisd

Hello! As the end of my internship approaches, I’ve been fully immersed in the preparation for the upcoming exhibition on Kafala over the past few weeks. As promised, here are some details on the work we’ve been doing:

The primary objective of the archival exhibition is to provide visitors with a comprehensive understanding of the Kafala system, its impact on migrant workers, and the changes it has undergone over the past 12 years. The exhibition seeks to shed light on both the challenges and progress made in the realm of labor rights, immigration policies, and social discourse surrounding Kafala. 

Being the only artist/architect in the organization definitely elevated my role and responsibilities in the making of the exhibition. I wasn’t assigned specific tasks in particular; instead, there existed a sense of mutual trust and a welcoming atmosphere from the staff. My work began with creating a 3D model of the space, a method I use for its effectiveness in visually conveying any potential concepts. Subsequently, my focus shifted to researching exhibitions that revolved around similar themes. I documented my findings and shared these insights with the team.

Along with the team of migrant workers and ARM staff, we came up with several curatorial ideas and themes for the exhibition, of which we discussed and narrowed down to the following conceptual framework. The iterative nature of our discussions and the collaborative spirit within the team led to a refined and resonant curatorial concept that encapsulated the multifaceted stories and perspectives of migrant workers.

Taking a speculative approach, the exhibition is set in the future, a time where Kafala ceases to exist. All items in the exhibition are considered ‘artifacts’ from ‘a dark time’. The idea is to highlight the absurdity and violence of a system that continues to exist. To mirror it to struggles that are deemed as “a thing of the past”. The exhibition takes its format as a journey starting from arrival to departure. Throughout the exhibit, a story unfolds of a migrant worker’s struggle against a system of exploitation.

That’s all for now! Keep an eye out for more details about the work and my Maharam experience.
– Aya

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