Parallel Histories, Barjeel Art Foundation's new exhibition, is spotlighting modern Arab artists, many of whom have not yet been given their due attention.

Of the 120 works on display, about 70 are by women who, despite having produced works on a par in both style and substance with their more celebrated contemporaries, have long been overlooked. It also fulfils the foundation's ongoing mission to ensure gender-balanced exhibitions.

This includes Lotus Girl by Nazek Hamdy, a painting of an Indian woman created by the Egyptian artist in 1955. One of the most captivating pieces in the exhibition, the work is testament to Hamdy’s time as a student in India, featuring Bengal murals and, perhaps most strikingly, a lotus flower – a symbol that is significant in both Indian and Egyptian cultures.

Lotus Girl by Nazek Hamdy at the Barjeel exhibition at Sharjah Art Museum. Photo: Barjeel Art Foundation

Hamdy has had such an important career, but for whatever reason, she hasn’t received the spotlight

The exhibition also includes works by Palestinian artist Zulfa Al Saadi and Hala Al-Kouatli, daughter of Shukri al-Quwatli, the first president of post-independence Syria.

“Many of these artists, especially the women, existed in parallel with different groups, genders, different ethnicities and religions,” says Sultan Al Qassemi, the founder of Barjeel Art Foundation. “Many of them didn’t overlap. Many of them just happened to create works at the same time with other artists.”

Parallel Histories runs at Sharjah Art Museum until spring 2024.