14 July 2021

Collage as an Archive – Kaltham bint Mohamed

Kaltham bint Mohamed is an Emirati artist who works primarily with collaging as an art production technique, but she is also an archivist of sorts. Through a series of varying stylistic methods, Kaltham employs collage as a way to record and to capture material such as her family history, Islamic Art and  snippets of her travels. It is a way for the artist to keep a visual journal of moments, practices and events that she encounters and deems necessary for documentation. 

Kaltham credits her older sister for inspiring her love for this form of art. At eleven years of age, she recalls seeing her sister’s scrapbook filled with magazine cutouts combined with drawings and dried flowers, which profoundly shifted Kaltham’s understanding of what art could be. She eventually went to art school and dedicated all her time to learning various facets of art-making and later on, curating and art preservation at the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi, where she earned her MA in 2019.

By showcasing social and urban life at specific moments of time in the past, her collection becomes a visual archive of the UAE and its people.

Much of Kaltham’s work documents her family history through a preservative collaging system which does not compromise on the integrity of the material she incorporates. Using a collection of old family photographs, Kaltham artfully layers and arranges the images with other elements such as pieces of cloth or artefacts connected to the photos selected. In one example, she shows photos of her mother, whose love for fashion design Kaltham made a central feature in the collage. In this arrangement, we see photos of Kaltham’s mother in two different outfits with traditional patterns, a photo showing Kaltham and her sisters in matching dresses, and a drawing of a dress designed for Kaltham’s mother that she decided to keep — together these snippets become a homage to her mother’s passion for beauty and art. 

In another collage, Kaltham centers a photo of her aunt’s 20th birthday back in the day. She includes in this selection the Kodak envelope the photos were in and various spatial moments from the UAE that lend a celebratory feeling to the arrangement. This is one example that shows how Kaltham’s collages serve a documentary purpose. By showcasing social and urban life at specific moments of time in the past, her collection becomes a visual archive of the UAE and its people. 

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