UWL invited Swansan AlSaraf to present in the Creative Imperatives Festival


Swansan AlSaraf, photographer and multimedia artist, presented her work during the 2019 Creative Imperatives Festival.

Julia Balli, General Assignment Reporter

The University of Wisconsin–La Crosse hosted the sixth annual College of Liberal Studies Creative Imperatives Festival, titled “Freedom Unbound: The Power of the Arts.” The three-day festival occurred on March 3rd to the 5th and incorporated expressing and exploring freedom through the arts. 

“[The event] will include exhibits, performances, workshops, and presentations that demonstrate how the visual and performing arts can be used to showcase marginalized populations, champion causes and generate ideas,” according to UWL Campus News. 

 On March 3 in the Center of the Arts, Swansan AlSaraf presented some of her artwork that “explores displacement, home, identity, belonging, abandonment, liberation and spirituality through her artwork and research,” according to UWL Campus News. Among the various presentations, Lisa Lenarz invited AlSaraf to the UWL campus for the Creative Imperatives Festival. 

“AlSaraf is an Iraqi-Canadian photographer and multimedia artist, AlSaraf draws her references from life experiences as an expatriate Iraqi woman. She uses her artistic energies to create works that allow for discussions about belonging, identity and the accurate representation of Arab communities. Her work has been screened and exhibited in Beijing, Beirut, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, Montreal, Georgia and Vermont,” according to the La Crosse Tribune

Some of the artworks displayed in her presentation were “Weight & Weightlessness” and “Voice and Voice-lessness” as a part of her “Rihla” (meaning journey in Arabic) series. Many of her artwork also questiosn male and female dynamics of authority and power. 

“My message is to share with this community how my life experience has impacted not only my artwork but also my personality. It has changed how I look at my definition of home,” said AlSaraf. 

At the end of her presentation she screened her experimental short film, “Tomorrow you will become a magic ney I said, but you did not hear me.” The film emphasized the damage in Iraq and how it affected her personal and sociopolitical situation. “In the beginning, I was a painter and sculptor. Experimental video is still new for me,” said AlSaraf. 

AlSaraf is also famously known for a collective exhibit with various photographs and painting. This exhibit, titled Generations, collaborated with her two daughters. Through Generations, “the two generations of women hope to build a visual conversation about displacement and the representation of Arab communities,” according to CBC News

Alsaraf concluded, “My work relates to those who have experienced displacement.”