Originally Published: May 24, 2020
Play the recording of our first-ever livestream and learn about how this groundbreaking virtual vernissage came to be. In an online event that was the first of its kind in Jordan, Palestinian-Jordanian cartoonist and painter, Mohammed Afefa, revealed a new collection that is being exhibited exclusively online in collaboration with our primary cultural partner, Dar Al-Anda Art Gallery in Amman, Jordan. THE CAT PROJECT continues to run online at marsoum.co/catrpoject through June 3, 2020.
In this time of global pandemic, the Marsoum Art Collective, its member artists and cultural partners have come together to help counter the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on those most in need. 50% of the proceeds of all sales from THE CAT PROJECT will be dedicated to combatting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic amongst those that are in most need in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Gaza Strip in Palestine.
The Formation of THE CAT PROJECT
Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have impacted every aspect of our lives, including the ability to frequent art galleries and to attend events such as as exhibition vernissages. This is where all players behind this exhibition saw an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones, while staying true to their missions.
“Given the digital-first nature of the Marsoum Art Collective, and the need for Dar Al-Anda’s patrons and Mohammed Afefa’s fans to continue to experience art while staying safe at home, it made all the sense in the world for this exhibition to be launched virtually”, says Majdoline Al-Ghezawi Al-Ghoul, Dar Al-Anda’s founder and owner for close to 25 years.
“Our role in the community was always that of a cultural leader”, Majdoline elaborates, “we were the first major private art gallery to lead Jabal Al-Weibdeh’s cultural revival in the late-1990s, among many other milestones that followed. So it was only natural for us to lead a wave of digital experiences that delight patrons and support our artists and community in a way that is relevant and delightful in the era of the Coronavirus-inflicted lockdown”.
In Mohammed Afefa’s candid statement on this collection (which is available in full in both Arabic and English on the exhibition page), he reflects on the dilemma he faced with a full body of work, but no physical space to showcase it. “What was I to do? I was a prisoner of the pandemic just like everyone else, But my friend and collaborator, Ibrahim Al-Far told me not to worry and to just make it an online exhibition.”, Afefa reflects on how this online exhibition first became a viable option in his mind.
Although Afefa had his reservations at first, he became more receptive to the idea of an online exhibition that could still convey the gallery vernissage experience. He continued to reveal his breakthrough moment: “One day, I realized how lucky I was to live next to an art gallery, and not just any gallery, Dar Al-Anda. I contacted Majdoline, the owner of Dar Al-Anda, and she said it was a great idea and that the world needs change to keep going forward”. Afefa concludes by reminding us to seek positivity in negativity by emphasizing that “we found liberation in an idea had sprung from a dire situation and the feelings of captivity that came from it”.
Enter The Marsoum Art Collective
This is technically the Marsoum Art Collective’s third exhibition since we launched in the fall of 2018. Our first exhibition was the digital reincarnation of Visualizing Palestine and Marwan Rechmaoui’s A NATIONAL MONUMENT, which continues to run online and has generated over $5,000 in sales that have helped further Visualizing Palestine’s parent non-profit VISUALIZING IMPACT’s mission of raising awareness of human rights issues around the world, and particularly those that impact the Palestinian people.
Marsoum’s second exhibition was our first live one. It took place in the summer of 2019 in collaboration with Vancouver, Canada’s MONICA REYES GALLERY, which went on to become one of our global cultural partners. The group exhibition, TOO FAR, SO CLOSE was received to an overwhelmingly positive critical response.
THE CAT PROJECT is the first exhibition powered by the Marsoum Art Collective to launch virtually. It is also Mohammed Afefa’s first exhibition at Dar Al-Anda and his induction into the Marsoum Art Collective. A live stream of the artist introducing his works at Dar Al-Anda Art Gallery simultaneously reached over 400 homes worldwide via YouTube and Instagram on Monday, May 18th between 12 and 1 pm EEST. This immersive digital experience, the first of its kind in Jordan, has been a resounding success, with several artworks being sold during the launch livestream and hundreds of visitors continuing to visit the exhibition page and our social media channels.
The Anatomy of THE CAT PROJECT
THE CAT PROJECT is the culmination of over three years’ worth of work and deliberation by Mohammed Afefa. There were three distinct phases that Afefa went through while executing this body of work that spans several methods and media. As such, THE CAT PROJECT consists of three series, A, M, and D (dishes). While they all acts as chapters of the same book, they each carry their own visual style and storytelling relevance.
Series A consists of 10 paintings of various sizes completed between 2017-2019. This series is characterized by the use of a humanized ‘cat’, or by the use of ‘the cat’ as a symbolic component intertwined with other elements of the artwork. In several cases, the paintings in this series convey the bond between feline and human beings, as greatly inspired by Afefa’s own interactions and experience. This series solidified the concept for rest of the THE CAT PROJECT and served as an important pre-requisite for the remaining two series.
Series M represents the second phase in Afefa’s journey in helming THE CAT PROJECT. This series is composed of 10 acrylic paintings on canvas, all of the same size (100 x 100 cm). These paintings were conceived exclusively for the Cat Project over the course of 2019. In Series M of THE CAT PROJECT, Afefa makes his feline friends the focal point of the artworks, with minimal depiction of their human counterparts. The aim of this series was to represent these cats embracing their solitary nature.
Series D (or the Dish Series) was competed during the quarantine lockdown in 2020 as a conclusion to THE CAT PROJECT. In this inventive format, Afefa employs the circular shape to serve as a lens that focuses on the cats represented in each of these six mixed media on resin works in this series.
About The Artist
Mohammed Afefa is an independent caricaturist and full-time visual artist. Mohammed Afefa’s practice is rooted in perceptions of everyday life, as fed by his background as a caricature artist and cartoonists. His award-winning illustrations speak to social, political and human-rights matters. In this project, he placed his focus entirely on his relationship with the cats that dominate the streets of Jordan’s capital and his hometown, Amman, Jordan.
Mohammed Afefa possesses a unique yet relatable artistic flair. Combining both animals and human beings in his art offers a connectedness between the artist and the viewer.
Afefa was born in 1972 in Al-Qatif, Saudi Arabia to parents of Palestinian lineage. After studying interior design, Afefa went on to pursue work in the field of design, illustration and animation before working on caricatures in 2004, alongside graphic design. He has held two solo caricature exhibitions, in addition to three solo art exhibitions in Amman, Jordan. Mohammed Afefa has also participated in a number of group exhibitions and art workshops. Afefa was the recipient of the 2012 Naji Al Ali Award for Caricature Palestinian Cultural Awards, as well as the 2018 Mahmoud Kahil Award for Editorial Cartoons by the American University of Beirut.
Learn more about Mohammed Afefa by visiting his bio page.
Written by: Abdulah S Al-Ghoul
Abdulah Al-Ghoul is a digital project manager and strategist with a background in several industries including hospitality, fine arts and marketing.
Abdulah founded the Marsoum Art Collective in 2018.