History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary

September 12, 2019 – January 5, 2020

For this fall’s exhibition, Minnesota Museum of American Art and Mizna, a St. Paul-based Arab arts organization, are partnering to present History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary.

Coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of Mizna’s flagship art and literary journal, the exhibition’s roster is selected from the list of artists highlighted in its pages: Hamdi Attia, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme, Osama Esid, Fadlabi, Adelita Husni-Bey, Emily Jacir, Yazan Khalili, Joe Namy, Monira al Qadiri, Alaa Satir, Zineb Sedira, Athir Shayota, Nida Sinnokrot, Walid Siti, Raed Yassin, and Ala Younis.

This exhibition recognizes the so-called Arab world and its diaspora as multiform, made up of 22 countries with distinct histories as well as diverse ethnicities, languages, and religions. Through visual art, book art, installation, and video, the exhibition’s 17 U.S.-based and international artists engage the “Arab imaginary” as a strategy for examining various social, cultural, and political positions, making connections between contemporary geopolitics and the histories that inform them.

These artists address challenges in representation, including the misunderstandings and missteps, and the limiting and problematic terms that are often used to define the region, especially in the U.S. History Is Not Here rejects the idea of history as a fixed category and looks to alternative imagery and language structures from which new “imaginaries” can be generated.

History Is Not Here is curated by Heba Y. Amin (visual artist and curator of visual art for Mizna) and Maymanah Farhat (writer and independent curator), in collaboration with the M.

Exhibition-related programs:

Public programs and tours are on-site at the M unless otherwise noted.

Opening Party
Thurs., Sept. 12, 6 – 9 p.m. | Remarks at 7 p.m.
Admission is free * RSVP requested * Donation suggested

Join us for a party to celebrate the opening of the M’s fall exhibition, co-presented with the St. Paul-based Arab arts organization Mizna. Get a first look at the exhibition, and meet curators Heba Y. Amin and Maymanah Farhat, and featured artists Athir Shayota and Fadlabi. Cash bar and tunes by DJ Yasmeenah. M members and Mizna subscribers receive a free drink ticket!

Curator Conversation
Fri., Sept. 13, 6 p.m.
Free * RSVP requested
Find out more about the exhibition History Is Not Here, in a conversation with curators Heba Y. Amin and Maymanah Farhat, moderated by the M’s Curator of Exhibitions Laura Joseph.

Artist Talk: Athir Shayota
Sat., Sept. 14, 1 p.m.
Free * RSVP requested
Featured artist Athir Shayota will talk about his experiences training and working as an artist in the American Midwest art scene.

Family Day: We Are Now
Sun., Oct. 20, 1 – 4 p.m. | Co-presented by Mizna
Free and open to the public
Bring the whole family for an afternoon of hands-on making activities, performance, and storytelling centered on the M’s fall exhibition. Catch a performance by theater artist Ifrah Mansour, learn about Arabic drumming with musician Kahldoun Samman, hear stories by Taous Claire Khazem, try your hand at broadside printmaking with folks from Mizna, and much more!

Flash Talks
Fridays and Sundays at noon
Free and open to the public

Bite-sized 10- to 15-minute chats about the exhibitions and new museum facility, offered twice each week by M volunteers.

Guided Tours
Free * RSVP requested
Dig deeper into what’s on view in the galleries in tours led by the artists, scholars, and the exhibition’s curatorial team.

ASL interpretation is available for some tours.

Recommended Resources:

Arab Americans: History, Culture, and Contributions (Arab American National Museum, 2019): A helpful overview of Arab American immigration history, including the recent influx of immigrants, and touches on the themes of religion, cultural traditions and the impact of media stereotyping, complete with maps, graphs, and historical images.