Husseiniyahs around Kuwait opened in Muharram, this hijri (Islamic) year cautiously amid tight security protection by the Ministry of Interior due to the instability of the political state of affairs in the gulf region. Despite the concern, Shiites muslims celebrated the martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet Muhammed (S), Al-Hussein (Peace be upon him) and his retinue. The grief is expressed profoundly in speeches and gatherings, But also, artistically in theatres, painting workshops, and personification. This year, Ashour Husainiyah in Benaid Al-gar, organized a Madam Tussaud's-like temporal museum showcasing scenes of this historical event.
It’s all started three years ago, when a young Kuwaiti named, Hamad Kamal, who’s passionate about modeling and casting, created this idea of establishing an annual exhibition to show a realistic replica of the story. Hamad worked with a group of friends also who share the same interest. Bader Al-Qallaf was one of them. “We brought our materials from Hollywood and started the preparation six months ago. We learn through our experiments. At first, we used PT Flex casting rubber, then moved to an advanced technique using Silicon and other materials like permanent blood and special wigs that weren’t locally available.” Al-Qallaf continued;”The first exhibition had only four sections, and this year it contained nine scenes of the saga of Ashura”.
Muslims of various sects disagree on the issue of realistic embodiment of the historical religious figures. Usually, in TV soap operas and historical movies they deliberately hide their faces. Therefore, this exhibition was a source of dispute. Taking this work from a cultural view, it’s not surprising. Culture is considered, somehow, an expression of the religious ideas in societies. So, standardizing the public reactions is hard to reach. “We received strong criticism from the dearest friends and relatives that we were pained to hear. But in return, we had a substantial positive feedback from the visitors who welcomed the idea from the start.” said Al-Qallaf
The imagery of Ashura was made first theatrically in Husseiniyahs for kids and adults few decades ago. Nonetheless, it boomed after the liberation from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The life-cast creation took off from homes of Shiites modestly. Then, it evolved into exhibitions. Two years ago in Kuwait, ceramics and art workshops have been held during Muharram. “The Husseini Art has no Guru and it’s not owned by one particular soul. It’s a visual representation of our feelings and it’s available to all.” added Al-Qallaf.
The exhibition was a dark passageway, divided into nine sections. The colors mainly used were red as a symbol of blood, black for mourning, and finally, green to symbolize martyrdom. The latter color with black are the traditional colors of Ashura. Sounds of laments were playing at the back of the scenes to underpin the visual message. It was difficult to shoot the whole show due to its ruthlessness.