Sophia Al-Maria – Alternative creation myths narrate a feminist past at Whitechapel Gallery
Thursday 15 November 2018 –Marking the culmination of a year-long collaboration as Whitechapel Gallery’s Writer in Residence, this new project from artist, writer and filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria (b. 1983, US) draws on feminism and radical queer politics to consider themes of history and narrative. BCE presents two distinct creation myths side by side – one ancient, one new.
In an ongoing collaboration Al-Maria has invited London-based artist, writer and performer Victoria Sin (b. 1991, Canada) to conceive of a new creation myth in a film work specially-commissioned for Whitechapel Gallery and on show for the first time. Sin performs the myth to camera, interrogating the patriarchal dimensions of sex, race, gender and fertility.
Displayed alongside, Wayuu Creation Myth (2018) explores the power of feminine rage to question colonial narratives. Footage shot on a hill of salt introduces a member of the Wayuu tribe in northern Colombia with whom Al-Maria collaborated, spontaneously retelling the story of Wolunca – the first Wayuu woman, who has a ‘vagina dentata’.
Over the course of her residency, Al-Maria has taken inspiration from the late speculative fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018, US), whose short essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction questions masculine heroic trajectories to suggest an alternative non-linear model of storytelling based on the process of collecting and gathering (as opposed to hunting). Asking urgent questions about survival in a hostile world, storytelling becomes a means to imagine different, more hopeful futures.
Sophia Al-Maria’s work has been exhibited internationally. Her award-winning memoir, The Girl Who Fell to Earth (2012) charts the experience of navigating two different worlds in a childhood spent shuttling between the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf.
Images courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery.