Zena El Khalil
Zena El Khalil (born 1976) is a Lebanese artist, writer, and activist.
Born in London, England, El Khalil spent her childhood in Nigeria and then attended high school in England. She then went to Beirut where she attained her undergraduate degree from the American University in Beirut. In 2002 El Khalil received her Masters of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York.
El Khalil works in a variety of formats ranging from painting, installation, performance, mixed media, writing, video, and collage. Themes that are central to her work include issues of violence as well as gender using materials found throughout Beirut. Photocopied images of militiamen and women, civilians and family members are embellished with everything from plastic flowers, glitter, strings of lights, keffiyehs, plastic toy soldiers, toy AK-47s, arabesques, beads, fabrics, and other objects that best convey the diversity of the city she takes her inspiration from. She has exhibited in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. She has had solo exhibitions in London, Munich, and Beirut. El Khalil currently lives and works in Beirut.
El Khalil has remained active promoting emerging and under-represented Arab artists through several projects. While in New York, she was a co-founder and curator of Al -Jisser. She also became the co- founder, director and curator of xanadu*. Created as an "ungallery art space/collective", xanadu* began in New York City as a not for profit organization dedicated to promoting emerging and under - represented artists. Currently, xanadu* is based in Beirut with a small extension on New York City.
During the July War in Lebanon, El Khalil immediately began maintaining beirutupdate from her apartment in Beirut. Her blog was a personal account of the siege on Beirut that lasted for 33 days and its impact on her and the people around her. It quickly received international attention and was highly publicized on news portals such as CNN and the BBC. Excerpts were published in daily papers, including The Guardian and Der Spiegel Online. Her writing was also included in the anthology Lebanon, Lebanon published by Saqi Books. In the aftermath of that war, Zena El Khalil curated with Sandra Dagher Nafas Beirut, a multimedia exhibition including 40 artists testimonies of the war.
In May 2008, El Khalil was invited by the Nobel Peace Center to participate in a panel discussion on freedom of expression on the internet. The seminar was organized by the Norwegian Board of Technology and The Nobel Peace Center. Among the speakers were Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and Jonathan Zittrain, one of the principal investigators of the Open Net Initiative.
In 2008 El Khalil also completed her first novel, Beirut, I Love You, published by Saqi Books. The book will be released in November 2008 in Lebanon and April 2009 in London.[dated info]
- 2008 "Maybe One Day Beirut Will Love Me Back." - The Flawless Gallery, Berardi-Sagharchi Projects London, UK
- 2006 "I Love You." - Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon
- 2004 "Wahad Areese, Please!" ("A Husband, Please!") - Le Laboratoire, Espace SD, Beirut, Lebanon
- 2003 "of love and war..." - Signature Art Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria
Selected Group Exhibitions
- 2008 "But, I Can't Let Go" Galerie Tanit, Munich, Germany
- 2007 "The Resilient Landscape" - Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney Australia
- "More Than Light Could Bear" - Art Lounge, Beirut, Lebanon
- "Ana "Njassa Al Fan" ("I Pear Art") - Dialogpunkt Deutsch, Tripoli, Lebanon
- 2006 "Pure Pop" - Art Lounge, Beirut, Lebanon
- "Nafas Beirut" - Espace SD Beirut, Lebanon
- "Imagining Ourselves" - International Museum of Women, San Francisco, USA
- 2008 "Beirut, I Love You"
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