Sama Raena Alshaibi

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Sama Raena Alshaibi also known as Sama Alshaibi سما الشيبي (born 1973 in Basra, Iraq) to an Iraqi father and Palestinian mother.[1] She is a conceptual artist (video art, photography and media installation), in which she often deals with spaces of conflict as her primary subject. War, exile, power and the quest for survival are themes often seen in her works. She often uses her own body in her artwork, as a representation of the country or an issue she is dealing with. Her mother, Maha Yaqoubi was born in Jaffa in 1946. The Yaqoubi family were relocated to Iraq at around in 1949, as a result of the 1948 Palestinian exodus. The family settled in Baghdad and she married Alshaibi's father, Hameed, in 1968. Sama Alshaibi and her siblings and parents fled Basra, Iraq in 1981, during the Iraq Iran War.[2] Her story of leaving Iraq is told in her film Goodbye to the Weapon and "Where The Birds Fly".

She was raised between the Middle East and United States of America, where she attended high school at Iowa City High School, in Iowa CIty Iowa. She studied photography at Columbia College in Chicago, and received her MFA at University of Colorado at Boulder, in 2005.[3] She has exhibited extensively throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East since 2003. Her solo exhibitions include London, Dubai, Guatemala City, Jerusalem and Ramallah. Her project Silsila was exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale, as part of the Maldives Pavilion.[4]

"Alshaibi’s confident figures not only express a sense of fortitude—they recall a distinct imagery found in post-Nakba Palestinian art and visual culture in which portrayals of women are iconic signifiers of a people’s tenacity. In paintings and illustrations by influential Palestinian artists Suleiman Mansour, Ismail Shammout, and Abdul Rahman al Muzayen, the female image is depicted as the embodiment of sumoud. Today we find a new generation of artists continuing and reinventing this tradition in a multitude of mediums."[5]


Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In, the first monograph of Sama Alshaibi, published by Aperture Foundation. It presents work from Silsila, a video and photographic project that Alshaibi worked on over five years in the deserts and threatened water sources of North Africa and West Asia. Part of that project premiered at the 2013 Venice Biennale. The book also presents other series including Thowra, Negatives Capable Hands and The Pessimists in the context of Silsila which means 'chain' or 'link' in Arabic. Alshaibi's book was published as part of the Aperture's First Book program, and she is the first artist from the Middle East to have a monograph published by Aperture." [6]


2014-2015 Fulbright Scholars Fellowship to the West Bank/Palestine: Alshaibi was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholars Fellowship and relocated to Ramallah with her family for one year. Her proposal was titled: Arts, Culture and Community Building: Developing Educational Programming for the Palestinian Museum.[7]
2013 University of Arizona's 1885 Society Distinguished Scholars Award: Alshaibi was one of four recipients of the UA's 1885 Society Distinguished Scholars Award and title, supported through the UA Foundation's 1885 Society and sponsored by the UA Office of the President. The award recognizes outstanding mid-career faculty who are leading experts in their fields and highly valued contributors to the UA's teaching, research and outreach missions.[8] The Regents' and Distinguished Professors who reviewed the nominations noted that [she is] "clearly one of the most important voices today in producing art pertaining to issues of the Middle East, women, the body, Islam and exile."” [9]
2010 Faculty Research Development Grant, University of Arizona
2008 Crystal Apple Faculty Recipient, Society for Photography Education – juried national teaching award
2008 Excellence in Photographic Teaching, The Center (at Santa Fe) - Honorable Mention - juried national teaching award[10]
2007 Feminist Review Trust, London, United Kingdom

Art Projects[edit]

  • Silsila, 2009-2015, video art, photography and installation[11]
  • The Tethered, 2012, video art[12]
  • Flight, 2012, video art
  • vs Him, 2011 (solo exhibition in Dubai vs.Him multi media including[13]
1 vs ruler installation view 2
  • vs. The Empire from vs. Him, 2011, projection on canvas with sound
  • vs. The Ruler from vs. Him, 2011, wood throne sculptures and sound
  • vs. The Father from vs. Him, 2011, video art
  • vs. The Brother from vs. Him, 2011, video art
  • vs. The Son from vs. Him, 2011, video art
  • Thowra (Revolution), 2011 video art
  • Warhead, photography, 2010 [14]
  • Negative's Capable Hands, photography 2010[15]
  • Absence/Presence from Baghdadi Mem/Wars, Video Art in collaboration with Dena Al-Adeeb, 2010
  • Efface/Remain from Baghdadi Mem/Wars, 2010 Video Art in collaboration with Dena Al-Adeeb
  • Still/Chaos from Baghdadi Mem/Wars, 2010, Video Art in collaboration with Dena Al-Adeeb[16]
  • End of September, 2010, 16 minutes, dramatic narrative short, co-written and directed with Ala' Younis.[17]
  • Chicken, 2009,experimental video art
  • Sissy, 2010, experimental video art
  • Sweep, 2009 experimental video art [18]
  • The Rivers, 2009, 58 minutes, documentary about Iraqi Refugees in Jordan
  • The Bride Wears Orange (2009-video)
  • Between Two Rivers (2008-photography)
  • And Other Interruptions (2007–2008, photography)
  • All I Want For Christmas (2007-video)[19]
  • In This Garden (Photography 2006) [20]
  • Birthright (2005-photography)[21]
  • Where the Birds Fly (2008-video)[22]
  • Zaman: I Remember (2002–2004)[23]


Received her BA in Photography at Columbia College Chicago and her Masters of Fine Arts (Photography, Video and New Media) at University of Colorado at Boulder. She is an Associate Professor of Photography at University of Arizona. She served as an elected member of the National Board of Directors for Society For Photographic Education (2009-2013).[24] She was the co-founder of the feminist collective 6+ before leaving in 2009.[25] Alshaibi represented the United States of America as the U.S. Department of State Arts Envoy to the UAE from May 21–30, 2012.[26]


  1. ^ "Sama:Bio". Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
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  3. ^ Proctor, Rebecca Anne. "ONE TO WATCH Sama Alshaibi: The Physicality of Exile". 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Maymanah Farhat,"Secrets Catalogue"
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  24. ^ "Society For Photographic Education home page". 
  25. ^ "6+: A women's art collective – Mission statement". 
  26. ^ "Sama Alshaibi Arts Envoy Programs". Consulate General of the United States, Dubai. 

External links[edit]