Perpetual Footnotes

Meera Alhameli, December 17, 2020 – January 16, 2021

Meera Alhameli

December 17, 2020 – January 16, 2021

Perpetual Footnotes is the first solo exhibition by Emirati artist Meera Alhameli. Meera is a dancer without a stage, without music and without a public. She draws with her hands and feet and photographs her performances alone in the studio or in remote abandoned places in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Her work is laden with bold gestures made by performing refined, repetitive movements. She exposes subtle details defying social norms. As an Emirati woman she is bound to adhere to family traditions and expectations.

In an effort to overcome social limitations and family restrictions, Meera turned to ballet as an adult at 19 years of age. Dance and movement have become her drawing practice. For Meera ballet requires a rigor of understanding, study and performance that she also experiences in the more rigid aspects of being an Emirati woman. The constant return to the paper is a counterbalance to the constant return to the conversation and pressure to focus on a domestic role in life. Ballet allows the expression of thought and emotion as a physical manifestation that she can’t channel socially.

The artworks are rebellious, but to her they are respectful to her heritage and cultural background. She resists the notion that she is ‘exposing herself’ as a dancer or performer. She reveals the invisible traces a dancer leaves following a performance. Every move leaves a mark recorded in deep black graphite. Nothing is hidden or edited. Her choice to use black is a deliberate rejection of the idea that colourful clothes or behaviour make a woman feminine.

Meera’s dynamic body prints are raw, visceral and immediate. There is an urgency to the work, and she leaves it all on the surfaces she works on. Her drawings and photographs are visual, tangible recordings of silent performances choreographed in the language of ballet on paper, canvas or as an alternative form of rural graffiti on the walls of abandoned buildings.

In this exhibition Meera is confronting the audience with drawings, works on canvas and photographs ranging from letter sized works on paper to a large wall mural made specifically for the exhibition. The artworks give an insightful look at Meera’s motivations for being an artist in the UAE, and above all her versatile approach to technique and determination to express without constraining herself or offending others.

– Walter Willems, Curator