Wasl (Union)

By Sama Alshaibi, Visual Artist

Wasl (Union)

By Sama Alshaibi, Visual Artist

“Wasl”, meaning “union” in Arabic, is part of Alshaibi’s seven-year project “Silsila”, or “link.” Through this body of work, the artist examines connections between different cultures that are under threat of displacement, recognizing shared global issues that need to be addressed. Inspired by the great 14th century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, Alshaibi loosely followed his ancient paths through the present-day Middle East and North Africa, to the islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, a nation slated to be the first to “disappear” by rising tides, and onto Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, another island on the brink of extinction with. Alshaibi establishes that this recognition of geological interconnectedness and human interdependence is essential to addressing environmental issues. According to the artist, the story of water is an enduring paradox and starting point for broader and philosophical readings that place mystical and historical importance on the natural world and point to our uncertain ecological future.


Sama Alshaibi works between photography, video, performance, and installation. Her practice explores the notion of aftermath—the fragmentation and dispossession that violates the individual and a community following the destruction of their social, natural, and built environment. She uses her body as both subject and medium, carrying the markings of war and dislocation. Powerful feminized representations reflect her position on mobility, margins, refuge, entropy, and future/historical imaginings.

In 2021, Alshaibi was named a Guggenheim Fellow in Photography and the recipient of the Phoenix Art Museum's Arlene and Morton Scult Artist Award. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at MOCA Jacksonville, Florida (2022); form & concept gallery, Santa Fe (2021); Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Arkansas (2020); Biennale of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Boliva (2020), Ayyam Gallery, Dubai (2019, 2018, 2015); Meyerhoff Gallery at MICA, Baltimore (2019); Artpace, San Antonio (2019); Cairo International Biennale (2019); Pen + Brush, New York (2019); Arizona Biennale, Tucson Museum of Art (2018); American University Museum, Washington D.C. (2018, 2017); Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca (2017); Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York (2017); Marta Herford Museum, Germany (2017); Museum De Wieger, Netherlands (2017); Honolulu Biennial (2017, 2014); Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (2016); FotoFest, Houston (2016, 2014); Palais De La Culture, Constantine, Algeria (2015); Ayyam Gallery, London (2015); Arab American National Museum, Dearborn (2015); the Maldives Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, Italy (2013); Edge of Arabia, London (2012); HilgerBROTKunsthalle, Vienna (2012); Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris (2012); Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah (2012); and Museum of Modern Art, New York City (2012). In 2015, Aperture Foundation published her first monograph, Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In. Alshaibi was born in Basra, Iraq and currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, where she is Professor of Photography, Video and Imaging at University of Arizona.

Friday, March 11, 2022 Saturday, March 12, 2022 Sunday, March 13, 2022 Experience
Sill from Wasl (Union) by Sama Alshaibi

WONDER HOUSE @ SXSW 2022 Experience:

Digital Oasis

Friday–Sunday, March 11–13, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.