Open Sesame

curated by Ola El-Khalidi

Ganzeer, Utopia, 2013 (detail)
In the evening of August 2, 1990, a family of four, vacationing in Greece was driving through the mountains on the island of Crete. Someone turned on the radio and the news announced, "the lands of Kuwait are invaded." The father slapped himself and shouting incoherently turned the car around and went back to the hotel. He asked the hotel owner for a radio, started making phone calls and soon thereafter the family flew back to Athens and from there to Jordan. Kuwait was no longer their home.

The participating artists in Open Sesame take the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a starting point. Using material collected from people who left Kuwait twenty-two years ago and were interviewed for the purpose of this exhibition, the artists in the show work with personal mementos such as housewares, letters, and diaries along with the interviews themselves. In their reflection and reaction to this moment, the artists in Open Sesame bring in their own histories, circumstances, and geographies to the story. This exhibition presents a very personal narrative,oscillating between the fictional and the real with the aim of documenting a moment, or parts of a moment, that quickly escaped.

Entitled Iftah Ya Simsim (Open Sesame), this exhibition takes its name from the command used to open the cave of treasures in the tale Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves, and from the title of the Arabic version of Sesame Street, which was launched in Kuwait in 1979 and took a long pause with the invasion.

  • artists:
    Jeanno Gaussi
    Rheim Alkadhi
    Makan Collective (Diala Khasawnih and Samah Hijawi)
Ola El-Khalidi works in the arts as an organizer, curator, and collaborator. Along with Samah Hijawi and Diala Khasawnih, she is a member of Makan, an art space, ever-redefined project and a collective based in Amman, San Francisco, and anywhere in between. She received an MA in curatorial practice from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2012.

Installation Images

Brochure Images

Rheim Alkhadi, Approximate view of a moment within an expulsion (from the archive of Amal K., who left Kuwait at that time), 2013

Sand from Kuwait to Amman, 1990


Ganzeer, Utopia, 2013


Jeanno Gaussi, Source Map, 2013


Wedding sheets (1976) - courtesy of Saida Jubran


Makan Collective (Diala Khasawnih and Samah Hijawi), Twenty Two Years Today, 2013

apexart’s program supporters past and present include the National Endowment for the Arts, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Kettering Family Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, The Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Spencer Brownstone, the Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation, Epstein Teicher Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation/Affirmation Arts Fund, the Fifth Floor Foundation, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Puffin Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and administered by LMCC, funds from NYSCA Electronic Media/Film in Partnership with Wave Farm: Media Arts Assistance Fund, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.