About the title /pəˈfɔːm(ə)ns/ :

Performance (Oxford Dictionary Online): 1. An act of presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment; performances are with physical movements but also with spoken words, sounds, noise, this in stark contrast with the contemplative silence of a photograph. Interesting to visualize this tension.

/pəˈfɔːm(ə)ns/, which is the English pronunciation of the word 'performance' put in writing, is as intelligible when silence(d).

ODO 2.4 An individual's use of a language, i.e. what a speaker actually says, including hesitations, false starts, and errors. Often contrasted with competence.

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Aljohara Jeje: Portraits of Legends Inspired by Pearls

It seems that Dutch artist and photographer Aljohara Jeje was inspired by her own name (Aljohara, meaning the gem) when creating her legendary portraits, adopting the pearl-jewel as a symbol of the words and distinct femininity that reverberated across the emirate of Sharjah, the capital of culture. In the city, she presented triptychs of women performing graceful movements that sought to convey pronounced words and sounds in utter contradiction to the condition of serene contemplation of observing a photographic image, a feat through which she proved to be highly successful in monitoring and capturing the existing tension between silence and speech.

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The artist lacks no exposure to numerous civilizations and cultures that she studied, observed, recorded and photographed around the world, but it was the story of the pearl that captivated her; the jewel that came to symbolize the world of riches across ages. This gem attracted her, not merely for its rarity, uniqueness and mystery, but for its exemplification of fortune and purity, enchanting women’s hearts for all eternity. For generations, the pearl has made its way from the depth of seas and oceans to embrace tenderly women’s necks, wrists, fingers, heads and attire, embarking on a journey across seasons that ended as a statement of the feminine, becoming thereby an icon in and of its own.

Aljohara Jeje recognized the significance of this gem, appointing it as her own icon. She went beyond that to memorize every aspect of its history by heart. She is the artist who merged with the small bead of pearl, the pebble that began its fable with kings and queens – as the oldest pearl necklace once rested on the neck of a Persian princess and found its way to a display vitrine at the Louvre Museum. Over the years, however, this treasure is no longer confined to the world of royals, but has become available to all.

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This is how Aljohara Jeje started her artistic photographic portraits that connected the pearl and the woman in an expression of their palpable essences, and an attempt to carry forth the language of femininity through creative and innovative means.

Jeje participated in exhibitions in Belgium, the Netherlands, China, Italy, Portugal, England, Germany, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. She received multiple grants and support from the Netherlands.

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Jeje is a freelance photographer whose experience includes working with international cultural organizations, artists, architects, advertising agencies, technical industries, service companies, design studios, publishers, lecturers, photography workshops, and several television and radio programs. She completed her education in photography at the Stedelijk Academy in Belgium. After living in various European countries, she chose Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia as her residence. It seems that the issues and concerns of Arab women will take a prominent role in her upcoming exhibitions.

- Amal Souror ©

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For more by Aljohara Jeje, follow her on Instagram and Paydesk.

Amal Souror is an award-winning journalist based in Sharjah. Amongst her awards are the Arab Journalism Award of Dubai, and the Johns Hopkins University Award of the USA, two of them.