Muhannad Shono, 39, is an artist and storyteller who has just had his first major solo exhibition,” Children of Yam.” The exhibition opened on October 12 in ATHR gallery, Jeddah, and will run until December 15th. I had the opportunity to ask Muhannad a couple of questions regarding his exhibition, and the idea behind it.
What does “Children of Yam” mean?
There are three sons of Noah; Shem, Ham, and Japhet who survived the flood, and the forgotten fourth son, Yam; the one who journeyed to the mountain to seek refuge from the deluge. His children, much like refugees today, are the displaced and the forgotten.
What is the exhibition about?
Migration and displacement; the forces that drive people out of their lands, and our distant empathy with those tragedies. We have collectively forgotten the stories of the past. We walk on a record of displacements long inked over. A book we cannot open with pages we cannot learn from. We empathize from above and we forget that though we are now local, we were one day, and will be again, displaced.
Where did the idea derive from, and what is the significance of this topic to you?
As a naturalized Saudi citizen to Syrian parents of Chechen and Karachay-Cherkessian descent, I grew up as a third culture kid with a hefty dose of identity loss and an acute awareness from a young age that I just did not fit in. So this work was really a personal journey through identity and displacement.
What kinds of pieces can people expect to see?
I experimented with paper, ink, and polymer clay to create stories of displacement and migration, maps, which chart the longing, restless human condition. The work ranges from the flat to the sculptural. I am also screening an animated short film that tells a reoccurring story of migration and the floods we carry within us.
Children of Yam by Muhannad Shono.
I was told I’m from here but also there.
I had tried to go and see what there was, but there was nothing of there left to see.
I moved on to that place, but even they told me I belonged back here.
No one could remember my name here or there, or the names of my parents, grandparents or the ones before them.
What were their names again?
I wandered through this, that and the other, until I no longer knew where there or here was.
I was nowhere.
And as I walked, I found others from everywhere.
We told each other which here we were from.
We told each other we were from here but also there.
The exhibition is on show at ATHR gallery, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, RF Floor, Space 03 from the 12 October 2016 – 15 December 2016.