Sama Alshaibi

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Sama Raena Alshaibi
Sama Alshaibi.jpg
Sama Alshaibi at her exhibition, The Arab Body, Italy, c. 2010
سما الشيبي

Basra, Iraq
EducationColumbia College, Chicago (photojournalism); University of Colorado, Boulder (photography)
Known forPhotographer, installation-artist

Sama Raena Alshaibi also known as Sama Alshaibi (Arabic: سما الشيبي‎ (born 1973 in Basra, Iraq) 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.

Alshaibi has exhibited extensively throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa since 2003. She has held solo exhibitions in New York, London, Dubai, Guatemala City, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Arizona. Her project Silsila was exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), as part of the Maldives Pavilion.[1] Her video work Wasl (Arabic for "Union" – 2017) was included in the inaugural 2017 Honolulu Biennial.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Alshaiba was born in Basra in 1973 to an Iraqi father and a Palestinian mother. She moved to the United States, with her family in 1986.[3]

Alshaiba's 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 where the artist's mother married Alshaibi's Iraqi father, Hameed, in 1968. Sama Alshaibi and her siblings and parents fled Basra, Iraq in 1981, during the Iraq-Iran War. They lived in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan before moving the United States in 1986.[4] Her story of leaving Iraq is told in her films Goodbye to the Weapon and Where The Birds Fly.

She was raised the Middle East and United States of America[5] and attended high school at Iowa City High School, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Alshaibi was taught photography by her father when she was 12 years old. She received her formal arts education by initially studying photography at Columbia College Chicago with a major in photojournalism, obtaining a BA in Photography; and later obtained a Master of Fine Arts (Photography, Video and New Media) at University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.[6]

Her first ambition was to become a war photographer. In an interview, Sand Rushes in, Alshaibi credits her mentor John H. White (an African American, and Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist for the Chicago Sun Times) for recognizing that she was a conceptual artist, even though her concerns were political in nature. She remained in the photojournalism track, but her early work showed the beginnings of what she eventually would became known for in her future practice, including her body staged as various characters.[7]

In graduate school, Alshaibi was primarily mentored by noted Jamaican artist Albert Chong. In interviews, Alshaibi states that living in a war and later as a refugee are the driving influences of her artwork, but she also notes the particular impact that black photographers working with issues of identity and representation have had on her. Besides her two mentors, Chong and White, Alshaibi was also inspired by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson when she was introduced to their work while at Columbia College.[7]

In the first semester of graduate school, Alshaibi's university museum held an exhibition titled "Shatat: Arab Diaspora Women Artists"; Alshaibi credits this exhibition for giving her the vocabulary to contextualize her work as well as introducing her to the artists and curators who had a major impact on her future studies. Alshaibi finished her first year of graduate school with her first solo exhibition at La Fabrica in Guatemala City.[7]

She is a Full Professor of Photography at University of Arizona.[8] She served as an elected member of the National Board of Directors for Society For Photographic Education (2009–2013).[9] She was the co-founder of the feminist collective 6+ before leaving in 2009.[10] Alshaibi represented the United States of America as the U.S. Department of State Arts Envoy to the UAE from May 21–30, 2012.[11]


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."[12]


  • 2018 Artist Research and Development Grant – Arizona Commission on the Arts[13]
  • 2017 Visual Arts AFAC Grant - Arab Fund for Arts and Culture: for the project proposal "Carry Over" (photography, sculpture)[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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.[16] 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."[17]
  • 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[18]
  • 2007 Feminist Review Trust, London, United Kingdom

Art projects[edit]

1 vs ruler installation view 2
  • Silsila, 2009–2017, video art, photography and installation[19][20]
  • The Tethered, 2012, video art[21]
  • Flight, 2012, video art
  • vs Him, 2011 (solo exhibition in Dubai vs. Him multi media including[22]
  • 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[23]
  • Negative's Capable Hands, photography 2010[24]
  • 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[25]
  • End of September, 2010, 16 minutes, dramatic narrative short, co-written and directed with Ala' Younis.[26]
  • Chicken, 2009,experimental video art
  • Sissy, 2010, experimental video art
  • Sweep, 2009 experimental video art[27]
  • 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)[28][page needed]
  • In This Garden (Photography 2006)[29]
  • Birthright (2005-photography)[30]
  • Where the Birds Fly (2008-video)[31]
  • Zaman: I Remember (2002–2004)[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-23. Retrieved 2013-05-06. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Sama Alshaibi in the 2017 Honolulu Biennial - News - Ayyam Gallery". Retrieved 2017-04-29.
  3. ^ Rellstab, F.H. and Schlote, C., Representations of War, Migration, and Refugeehood: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Routledge, 19 Sep. 2014, p. 77
  4. ^ "We Are Iraqis Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War ebook BUY DIRECT from Syracuse University Press Edited by Nadje Al-Ali and Deborah Al-Najjar". Syracuse University Press.
  5. ^ Rellstab, F.H. and Schlote, C., Representations of War, Migration, and Refugeehood: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Routledge, 19 Sep. 2014, p. 77
  6. ^ Proctor, Rebecca Anne. "ONE TO WATCH Sama Alshaibi: The Physicality of Exile".
  7. ^ a b c Alshaibi, Sama (2015). Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In. New York: Aperture. pp. 101–103. ISBN 978-1-59711-308-3.
  8. ^ "Sama Raena Alshaibi – School of Art". Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  9. ^ "Society For Photographic Education home page".
  10. ^ "6+: A women's art collective – Mission statement".
  11. ^ "Sama Alshaibi Arts Envoy Programs". Consulate General of the United States, Dubai.
  12. ^ Risch, Conor (2 April 2015). "Iraqi-Palestinian Artist Sama Alshaibi's First Book Explores Imperiled Water Resources". Photo District News.
  13. ^ "Announcing the Recipients of 2018 Artist Research & Development Grants". Arizona Commission on the Arts. 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  14. ^ "AFAC :: GRANTEES". Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  15. ^ "Sama Alshaibi". Fulbright Scholar Program.
  16. ^ "Gift Impact – Faculty". The University of Arizona Foundation.
  17. ^ Swedlund, Eric (3 September 2013). "School of Art Faculty Member 'One of Most Important Voices Today'". UA News. university of Arizona.
  18. ^ "Center Announces Excellence in Teaching Award Winner". Fraction Magazine (Blog). 6 October 2008.
  19. ^ "When beauty rushes in: Sama Alshaibi at Ayyam Gallery London – in pictures". Art Radar. 27 March 2015.
  20. ^ Grundy, Gordy (2017-06-20). "Say Aloha to the Very First Honolulu Biennial!". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  21. ^ Malik, Khadijah (10 December 2015). "Sama Alshaibi: Unleashing the Saga of War, Exile, and Survival". The Culture Trip.
  22. ^ "Sama Alshaibi – vs. Him". Lawrie Shabibi.
  23. ^ "Payload-from project Warhead". Artist Pension Trust. API Holdings Worldwide.
  24. ^ "Sama Alshaibi". Gallery Temenos.
  25. ^ "Sama Alshaibi and Dena Al-Adeeb". Light Work. January 2010.
  26. ^ Milliard, Coline (16 August 2011). "Artist Sama Alshaibi on "End of September," Her Provocative New Film About the "Hijacking" of the Palestinian Caus". BlouinArtinfo.
  27. ^ Eltorie, Aida. "Sama Alshaibi – Sweep". Nadour.
  28. ^ Armes, Roy (2010). "Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East: A Dictionary". Indiana University Press – via Google Books.
  29. ^ Jayawardane, M. Neelika. "Cartography Without Frontiers: The Body, the Border and the Desert in Sama Alshaibi's Artwork" – via Academia.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-27. Retrieved 2015-04-20. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "NOW: Professor Sama Alshaibi". School of Art Newsletter. Vol. 2 no. 1. University of Arizona. Fall 2007.
  32. ^ "Artists Sama Alshaibi, Vahé Berberian and Adnan Charara: 'inside/outside & other oxymorons'". Levantine Cultural Center. 19 May 2009.

External links[edit]