Floating in our collective imaginations: Levitate by Hayaty Diaries

5 min read
07 June, 2024

Founded in 2022 by childhood best friends Kinzy Diab and Christina Shoucair, Hayaty Diaries is an art collective dedicated to showcasing contemporary women artists across the Arab world and its diaspora.

Diab and Shoucair curate selling exhibitions that spotlight the immense talent of a new generation of artists.

In an art world that has historically been challenging for young Arab women to present their work, Hayaty Diaries brings fresh air into London’s already bustling art scene.

Diab and Shoucair share a passion for authentic visual storytelling, continuously seeking and discovering new emerging talent for exposure on social media, to collectors, and art enthusiasts.

Diab and Shoucair have successfully curated several compelling exhibitions to date.

Hayaty Diaries’ debut exhibition, Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled, examined the intersection between art, perception, and the artists’ experiences as Arab women.

It was a massive success, resulting in most of the pieces selling within days of the exhibition’s closing.

Their second exhibition, The Material Woman, was a collaboration with 3EIB, a Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) fashion collective founded by London-based creative Dania Arafeh.

This collaboration was more than just an exhibition; it included a performance piece, a pop-up store, and an opportunity for Hayaty’s curated artworks to engage in conversation with 3EIB’s selected designers.

The duo presents their latest exhibition, Levitate, from June 6 to June 16, 2024, in a cosy yet spacious venue in Shoreditch.

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The third exhibition of Hayaty Diaries is their longest show to date and features five artists from Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Palestine.

Levitate aims to make space for reflection in our busy, heavy, and heartache-filled daily lives, an opportunity to momentarily disconnect and explore the beauty of imagination in the arts.

The exhibition name reflects the curators’ desire to have the viewer ascend just above the ground, floating into an alternate state of consciousness that serves as a momentary, fleeting distraction from reality as we know it.

A hypnotic experience 

Levitate’s opening night took place on Thursday 6 June. The curation offered a hypnotic experience, inviting viewers to circumambulate the exhibition space. 

In the middle of the well-lit room, London-based Palestinian visual artist Raya Kassisieh showcased Forever I Will Seek To Know The Truth Of Why I Can See More Than I Meet. This large metal sculpture of a rose features leaves turned inward, as if capturing rain or holding something priceless.

At the entrance of the gallery, Tunisian artist Myriame Dachraoui’s psychedelic Untitled II was beautifully paired with Jordanian-Palestinian artist Zein Majali’s Fed, a cast aluminium light with two degrees of articulation.

Majali’s Fed was one of the standout pieces of Levitate. Majali quite literally fed prompts into AI software until it produced the final design, which features a skeletal hand juxtaposed with other bone-like structures holding the piece together.

Once Majali was satisfied with the AI’s final rendition, she collaborated with metal experts to cast the aluminium lamp.

One of Levitate's strongest elements is its insistence on fostering conversations between and across artists.

A prime example of this is seen in the work of Myriame Dachraoui and Egyptian artist Nour Ammar. Both artists present abstract pieces that invite viewers to explore the interpretation of bold, colourful symbols.

Dachraoui’s Strange Gravity features three mysterious floating objects set against a sunset and star-lit night. Meanwhile, Ammar’s Midst and Loop showcases complementary palettes with large, swooping brush strokes that evoke a sense of dance-like movement, yet remain sombre and meditative.

The centrepiece of Levitate was Iraqi-British painter Pippa El-Kadhi Brown’s Night Dwellers, a massive canvas that becomes more complex the longer one stares into its pastel-toned beauty. Three ghost-like figures sit around a brightly-lit dining room table, filled with an assortment of playing cards, food, and tea.

El-Kadhi’s practice emphasizes the dialogue between domestic space and the human psyche; her Day's Journey Into Night flips the human perception of day and night by reflecting the stars on tiling below the ghastly figure’s feet, with a sun, moon, and erupting volcano all presented on one plane of sight.

El-Khady ensures the line between reality and fantasy remains unclear — her pieces encapsulate the very ethos of Levitate: to be immersed in wonder and embrace the out-of-body mystery requisite for levitating above reality.

As the viewer departs Levitate, surrounded by the inviting atmosphere coupled with deeply reflective pieces carefully selected by Diab and Shoucair, they cannot feel anything but slightly lifted, gratitude for each of the five artists’ dedication to vulnerability and introspection.

Spanning identities and experiences across the Arab world and its diaspora, the artists connect the body to the universe, a subtle but needed reminder that we exist in a world beyond ourselves, immersed in an ecosystem and atmosphere that is simultaneously light and heavy. 

The exhibition is situated at 4 Garden Walk, EC2 3EQ

Ethan Dinçer is a cultural journalist and creative consultant based between London, Istanbul, and Boston. His portfolio includes extensive coverage of Middle Eastern designers and creatives, featuring interviews with prominent figures such as Sheikha Reem al-Thani, Azza Fahmy, and Glenn Martens. His work has been featured in TeenVogue, Canvas Magazine, JDEED Magazine, and more. Notable projects include a 30-page commission on Islamic art for Cartier and a guest lecture at Duke University in 2022. Ethan is also an active political commentator, appearing on platforms like Asharq News and AL24

Follow him on Instagram: @ethandincer