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Saloua Raouda Choucair: From Beirut to Tate Modern

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair is famous in the Middle East for bringing abstraction to the region. A rare female voice in the Beirut art scene from the 1940s onwards, she has spent her career combining Western abstraction with the traditions of Islamic design. But working through civil war and ongoing unrest in Lebanon, she remains virtually unknown outside her own country. At the age of 97, this pioneer of art was belatedly recognised with her first major museum show. Here we travel to Beirut to meet the artist's daughter at the apartment where Choucair's work started its journey.
Created by Tate.

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Video transcript

this is my Tait conservation studio relocated to Beirut shoe care has become very well-known in recent years in her own country she isn't widely collected a huge proportion of this very prolific artists work is stored in her own apartment I think in total 160 objects are flying to the United Kingdom for the Tate Show I'm not nervous about the packing because they are really taking good care of everything it's just to get to get there in so I'm just hoping they will arrive safely and come back it will be a very nice moment for me to walk in a museum and go and see my mother work hang on a wall I mean exposed in in the right place not at home now only I've been seeing them living with them all my life there is a real resonance of she care within the apartment even though she is profoundly affected by the Alzheimer's disease that she suffers from she's omnipresent spiritually I feel she's everywhere I mean my mother is here and she's aging gracefully peacefully and losing her vocabulary so she cannot speak I'm here instead telling you things about her I wish it is it would have been wonderful her energy just to see her energy I mean growing up with her was fun because she was playing all the time but everybody respected her passion and her family I mean that she was extremely passionate about it people took her seriously because she really believed in what she wanted to do shoe care had been in Paris in the 1940s and had been working in phonology studio and I think there along with her training she had absorbed the classical painting technique her sculpture is a completely different kettle of fish I'm sure something happened in her mind in Paris it put her on a track but she felt that she always had this track in her my mother didn't waver a lot you know she went in a really very straight line her soul was completely into forms and shapes she's incredibly inventive with the materials that she's used different kinds of marble polished wood both fired clay unfired clay glazed clay fiberglass is very important to her this is what she was born she's a real beauty and she loved her City she didn't live the conflict of Lebanon with the depression I mean she was depressed definitely everybody was depressed in Lebanon at that time there was always a new things happening in science and oh my god this is so interesting so she was always motivated she wasn't sick of modern time she wasn't nostalgic she believed in the future she believes in science and in exploring space and exploring the the DNA and exploring all this desolate sorryi'm desire in Hibernia lives Mohammad Vadim fee fee ending come on the little sailor at Le Tissier Monday let the sahara model nettle tagine Achilles in eonni hey demon in heresy and if you are not in therapy yeah the Ptolemy yeah only Hampshire and we should fucking waffle iron I would say internationally work is very very little understood very under-recognized which of course is the importance of having the exhibition at 8:00 in the last decade that they are even two decades her work has been increasingly acknowledged particularly in Beirut one would say that generally throughout her life up until that point she was really overlooked in some cases perhaps purposefully so she was a woman of course she's also Druze and their route is very complex as we know in terms of the different factions and frictions and of course also the the fact of civil war so it was impossible for any artists to have an international career let alone a local career kill her neighbor medina lemme manila mr. Aslam he will join a killer Bobby a hockey game but smirking Abaddon worthy and hadn't in no family on the sea yet making where the and maloo look at where the nd honey but an active like the subtree so that there's one painting in the exhibition that gives you some sense of the circumstances in which you care was working which of course were extreme the painting that we've included was affected by a bomb that exploded very near to her apartment glass shattered the painting it's it's partially destroyed but I felt it was very important to include in the exhibition in order to understand that here is an artist producing this type of work completely surrounded by a very different set of circumstances and yet her work is remaining completely true to itself let's say and true to her her own interests and fascinations she's an extremely rational artist it was not in her artistic language to bring in subjects such as the Civil War or about perhaps raising a child or being a wife or a mother or indeed any of the other sort of personal stories these were irrelevant art making I am still discovering and I've been looking into those pieces forever and I still see new things in them I know she's happy and I know that she's happy that we are enjoying it