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The Disaster Shield

Sher Ali

Presented in Season 1 2024

Window Commission – Exterior
Presented by Arts House

Wednesday 27 Nov 2023 – Monday 25 Mar 2024 

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Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
North Melbourne

Wheelchair Accessible
Visual Rating 100%

As a net keeps insects from the home, The Disaster Shield imagines a country protected by a shield of peace.  

In this stunning window commission, artist Sher Ali has collaborated with a group of female weavers to share the beauty of traditional Afghan embroidery with the practicality of a net screen, in a wish to protect innocent people from weapons and destruction. In this context, The Disaster Shield infuses a beautiful, though everyday, practical function with compassion and hope.   

These works contain imagery that may be challenging for some viewers. We encourage viewers to read the artist statement below to understand more about this work. Arts House champions freedom and diversity of cultural expressions and the voice of artists and marginalised communities. 

The Disaster Shield

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About the artist

Born in 1983 in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sher Ali commenced his artistic journey during the years 1993 to 1997, honing his skills at a local art center in Kabul. He furthered his artistic education at the Art High School of Kabul from 1997 to 2003.

In the pursuit of artistic excellence, Sher Ali embarked on a transformative educational path, culminating in the completion of his BFA at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan, from 2009 to 2013, generously supported by a South Asia Foundation scholarship.

Sher Ali's artistic footprint extends globally, with exhibitions gracing significant spaces in Kabul - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sweden, Vietnam, UAE, USA, Australia, and Hong Kong. Relocating to Melbourne, Australia in November 2021, he now considers this vibrant city his creative hub.

A profound poet of visuals, Sher Ali's works find their roots deeply embedded in poetry, culture, and history. Embracing traditional approaches, he delves into the controversies of daily life, questioning and expressing his thoughts in consideration of his homeland's history, infusing a contemporary perspective and an expressive stance. His art serves as a poignant reflection, narrating the stories of hundreds of years characterized by genocide, terror, oppression, and an unwavering resilience to forget. Transitioning from traditional to universal, Sher Ali now leverages both traditional and new media to craft his masterpieces, exploring mediums such as installations, videos, paintings, and tapestries in his creative repertoire.

Artist Statement

Amidst the chaos of Kabul, I often thought about the loud explosions that shook our lives like unsolvable puzzles. I wondered who was causing this pain and why they were doing it to people who never expected to be hurt.

One day, while lying at home, I had a strong wish. I wished that, like we use nets to keep out insects, we could also create a barrier to keep out weapons and destruction. Just as we want to get rid of annoying flies and mosquitoes to enjoy our homes peacefully, we longed for a life without weapons and war.

I dreamed of living a happy life, like the colourful curtains that decorate every Afghan's home. I imagined a country protected by a shield of peace, like a screen that keeps out common flies. A place where people could thrive without the noise of conflict.

I want to thank the strong women artisans who helped me sew this colourful artwork, even though they faced many challenges and restrictions. With each delicate stitch, they wove their hopes and dreams into this fabric, showing their resilience against the darkness that surrounded them.

Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist