IN CONVERSATION WITH KHOLOD HAWASH AND SADDAM JUMAILY AT THE TAPIOLA GUEST STUDIO
Interview & images: Ida Taavitsainen
Since April the Finland-based Iraq-born artists couple Kholod Hawash and Saddam Jumaily have been resident artists at the Tapiola Guest Studio creating new works for their individual practices. The Tapiola Guest Studio and its residency program are maintained by the Finnish Artists’ Studio Foundation. The residency program is supported by funding from The Arts Promotion Centre of Finland and The City of Espoo.
Hawash and Jumaily originally came to Finland in 2019 for the Kone Foundation’s Saari residency through the Artist at Risk* program and have been staying here ever since. Prior to their move to Finland, the couple had been living in Jordan from 2011, where they fled after Iraq became too dangerous for them to live and work in.
Now that Hawash and Jumaily’s residency is coming towards its end, we decided to check in with the artists to see what they have been up to for the past five months.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves, who are you and what do you do?
Kholod: I’m a self-taught textile artist from Iraq. I’m currently on a grant from the Kone Foundation. My main subject is women, especially women in the Middle East. There’s a lot of problems in the Middle East, there’s no freedom – not for men, but especially not for women, they are at the bottom of the hierarchy. I always loved art as a child, but was not allowed to study it because of my gender. I studied accounting instead. The inspiration to my art comes from my mother. She used to make quilts. Nothing special, just very simple things for everyday use made out of old clothes and textiles. When I make my work it’s a memory of my family and my home. In my work I mix contemporary art with tradition. Quilting is also feminist art.
Saddam: I used to teach art in Basra in Iraq. In 2011 we had to flee for Jordan and I continued my work as an artist from there. I have also published books and worked as an art critic. My focus is on painting and sculpture. I think you can make great art with traditional techniques. I want to keep my technique, but my challenge is how to make conceptual art with these techniques. My art is critical both towards politics and religion. In the body of my art I’m saying that the world is confusing, no-one knows what’s going on. My work is metaphysic. It’s not real, but at the same time it’s very real.
Why did you apply for this residency?
Saddam: We applied because we could. Normally the residency is offered to artists living abroad, but because of the coronavirus, the residency was now open only to artists living in Finland. We heard about it from a friend and decided to apply.
You have done a few other residencies in Finland prior to this. Has this residency, or any of the previous ones, helped you integrate to Finnish art society or society in general?
Kholod: Yes, we have been to residencies with Saari, HIAP, Saastamoinen Foundation and Porvoon Taidehalli and made some new connections with artists through them.
Saddam: Sometimes we’ve been alone in the residencies and not met so many people, but in general it’s good to have community and contacts with other artists. Finns are quite shy and because of the corona virus it’s even more difficult to meet people. People are also being more careful now, but occasionally we’ve been cooking with our artist neighbours from the other studio apartments here on Nallenpolku.
How has the residency been so far?
Saddam: It’s been very productive, but because it’s summer we sometimes prefer to be outside!
Kholod: Saddam has been drawing and I have been sewing in the park and then we have worked in the studio at night.
Do you want to tell us anything about the work you’ve been creating here during the residency?
Kholod: I’ve been making quilted pictures of women. I just finished one last night after working on it for 3-4 months. Everything is hand-stitched so it takes time. I’ve been making these for an upcoming exhibition in Porvoo with the Kone Foundation.
Saddam: I’ve made ceramic sculptures, because here I have the space to do it. Now I’m looking for an artist who can help me burn them. The work is about the experience of losing your home. We’ve lost our home and we still don’t have a home. I’ve also been painting, drawing and making artist books.
What are you up to after the residency?
Kholod: We will both have individual solo shows at Huuto next year and I will have an exhibition in Porvoon Taidehalli. It was moved forward already once because of the coronavirus.
Saddam: We might have a few other things coming as well, but because of the virus it’s hard to plan much. After the residency we will move to Espoo, actually quite nearby. Maybe we can finally relax, settle and focus on our lives.
Thanks for the interview and good luck with everything!
Saddam Jumaily https://www.saddamjumaily.net
The Tapiola Guest Studio https://www.ateljeesaatio.fi/en/guest-studios-and-residencies/tapiola-guest-studio/
* ARTISTS at RISK (AR) is a non-profit network institution at the intersection of human rights and the arts. AR is dedicated to mapping the field of persecuted art practitioners, facilitating their safe passage from their countries of origin, hosting them at AR-Residencies and curating related projects, including the AR Pavilion.