The Electric Shed, the artist-run space operated by David Onri Anderson, is located behind his house in South Nashville. This neighborhood also contains the city’s Little Kurdistan community, home to the largest population of Kurdish immigrants in North America. On view at the Electric Shed through August 8, Kurdish-American artist and longtime Nashvillian Beizar Aradini’s recently closed exhibition Mashallah, Mashallah, Mashallah wove together these cross-cultural threads through textile works that evoke mythology, prayers, and symbols from Kurdish tradition.
Aradini’s family fled Northern Iraq in 1988, and the artist was born in a refugee camp in the mountains of Southern Turkey in 1991. Her family joined Nashville’s Kurdish community the following year. Mashallah, an Arabic phrase that means “what God has willed,” is used to express joy or thankfulness for a person or an event. At Aradini’s display at Electric Shed, the phrase appeared to recall the bonds of family and food, distantly remembered places, and the centuries-old creative skills Aradini is re-imagining.
Aradini’s mind-boggling threadwork was the star of Mashallah, Mashallah, Mashallah. Sewing is a traditional skill in Kurdish culture, passed down from mothers, aunts, and grandmothers to daughters, nieces, and granddaughters across generations. Aradini’s subjects summon this shared history: a still life of a pitcher of tea, a palm tree waving in the wind, portraits of family and friends, the image of a nazar, the blue charm that wards off evil eyes. (The phrase mashallah is also commonly used in the Muslim world as a wish for God’s protection from the evil eye.) Aradini studied painting at Middle Tennessee State University, but her talents appear better displayed with a needle and thread than pigments and brushes. Her current practice is born of restless experiments with numerous materials and techniques. The results are a combination of mediums uniquely suited for expressing the artist’s hybrid cultural identity. The sewn text on a banner in the exhibition characterizes this condition best: Too halal to be haram, but too haram to be halal.
Beizar Aradini‘s Mashallah, Mashallah, Mashallah was on view at The Electric Shed in Nashville through August 8.