Farah Al Qasimi, Um Al Dhabaab (Mother of Fog)

Premiered at the Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present opening in February 2023, Farah Al Qasimi’s new film was co-produced by Sharjah Art Foundation and KADIST. 

Um Al Dhabaab (Mother of Fog) addresses the myth of Al Qasimi tribe-instigated piracy in the Gulf, perpetuated by the British Empire and upheld by contemporary western academia. This narrative is contested through a fictional retelling of the 1819 siege of Al Dhayah fort and the subsequent Pax Britannica treaty that solidified Britain’s military presence in the Trucial States. Relayed across various locations and times in Ras Al Khaimah through the perspectives of an ancient jinn, the ghost of an Al Qasimi pirate, two RAK-based sisters, a Jack Sparrow Impersonator/Ship Captain, and an 1819 British naval officer, the film challenges Western-centric historiographies of the Gulf and the lingering imperialist interests at play across Asia’s modern-day trade hubs. The film also grounds this conflict of portrayal in the twenty-first century by drawing parallels to pirate-centric video games and movies in contemporary culture.

Farah Al Qasimi’s practice engages with structures of power, gender, and taste in the Gulf Arab region. Dividing her time between Abu Dhabi and New York, Al Qasimi has integrated her practice as a social critique and observation of the nuanced aspects of each place. Working primarily with photography, video, and performance, the artist critically addresses the unspoken social norms and values embedded in a place, a moment, or an object. Her thought-provoking images invite the viewer to sense and discern the power dynamics at play in the scenes that she creates.