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Khaled Sabsabi

Naqshbandi Greenacre engagement 2011

on display

Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre for Edge of Elsewhere, 2011.
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2011

3 channel digital video, 2 channel sound, wooden table, plastic folders with photocopied texts

90 min 6s

About the Artwork

Khaled Sabsabi arrived in Australia from Tripoli in 1978 with his parents due to civil war breaking out in Lebanon, and decided to emigrate permanently to Sydney. While ‘Lebanon was in our hearts’, the family realised it was important to establish a new life in a new country. It is not surprising that the artist’s practice focuses on socio-political contexts as well as ideas of difference. He has worked with numerous suburban communities, developing art programs and projects that explore the complexities of place, displacement, identity and ideological differences associated with migrant experiences.

The artist began his creative life as a hip-hop performer but more recently has produced sound art, immersive installations and theatre pieces (1). As a video artist, he continues to work across borders of discipline, nationality and culture to create artworks that challenge the passive consumption of media spectacle. By criticising global mass media, he hopes to bring the individual to the foreground. The artist comments on our propensity for violence ‘We’re told that it’s in our genes, or it’s human nature that we love violence and we will always fight to advance ourselves. If you accept that, then that’s all you will have.(2)’

Naqshbandi Greenacre Engagement came about because of the artist’s very personal and committed involvement with members of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order of Australia during 2010. The Order currently has active circles in Greenacre, in Sydney’s western suburbs, as well as in Melbourne. The Naqshbandi Sufi Muslims are mystics, believing that one’s journey in life is the path of return to God. Sabsabi’s project presents us with a rare and privileged view into the spiritual and communal gatherings of members of the Greenacre Order who come together on a weekly basis in a local Scout hall for spiritual mention in the form of Zkir ceremonies. Its members, from a variety of cultural backgrounds, embraced the artist into their ceremonial setting, allowing him (and us as his audience) to witness a world that eloquently explores the visual manifestations of subtle social realities of the power, shared spirituality and geography, within the context of an everyday, suburban, Australian existence.

1) Sabsabi composed sound and music for the award-winning play Writing From The Hip, Belvoir Street Theatre (1996) and AFI nominated films, Colour Bars (1997) and Cedar Boys (2009). He also continues to work with at-risk communities, in youth prisons, detention centres, refugee camps and other facilities.

2) Khaled Sabsabi & Nick Terrell, ‘Round Trip’, Incubate, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney, Issue 6, 2011, pp 55-56

Artist Statement

The dual identities that develop through the migrant experience can create anxiety and uncertainty, but they can also generate an awareness, going between Arab culture and Western or Australian culture, you have the ability to experience and see and to analyse both cultures, both traditions, both histories.

Khaled Sabsabi and Nick Terrell, ‘Round Trip’, _Incubate_, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney, Issue 6, 2011, pp 55-56

Khaled Sabsabi

– About the artist


Sabsabi considers himself a people’s artist who processes art-making complexities through engagements with people who are more on the margins than him. He was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, and migrated with his family to Australia in 1978 to settle in Western Sydney. Since the late 80s he has worked with communities, in particular Western Sydney communities, to create and develop arts programs and projects that explore people and places from broad social, political and ideological spectrums.

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