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photographer | Tunisia

Héla Ammar

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Héla Ammar - photographer
"You need to have the will, faith and courage to start from scratch. It is what we are, precisely, compelled to do."

Héla Ammar, born in 1969, is a Tunisian photographer whose work focuses, essentially, on memory and identity.

Photographer, woman and Tunisian

Ammar began her artistic career by producing abstract paintings, which she quickly abandoned for photography. This medium effectively allowed her to place herself as a woman, and more importantly, a woman from a Mediterranean country. For the first time, the photographer was propelled into the public space during the Tunisian Revolution, during which she worked with the artist JR on a series of portraits of Tunisians, breaking away from the traditional portrait of the president. Ammar’s training in law has, also, led her to explore the world of prisons, where one of her most important series is set.

Expression through layers

Through her photography, Ammar explores the themes of memory and identity. The series Counfa re-establishes the identity of prisoners who are still living in the old regime, whilst Female Identities questions the gaze of society and traditions on the female body. The photographer also questions the Orientalist imaging of a former colony through re-appropriation. Ammar layers her portraits with architectural details, giving Female Identities its softness and reducing the violence of her commentaries.

International recognition

Ammar’s work has been presented in several exhibitions and international biennales: Dak’Art, MuCem in Marseilles, Rencontres de Bamako, OFF Biennale Cairo, World Nomads in New York and Rencontres d’Arles. Her work is also a part of several collections, including one in the British Museum.

Hidden Portraits

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Beyond the walls

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Credentials

Prize

  • 2012
    Arab Fund for Art and Culture (Général Grant)– Tunis, Tunisia

Group exhibitions

  • 2017
    Bamako Photography Encounters / Espace – Bamako, Mali
  • 2017
    Dream City / Espace public – Tunis, Tunisia
  • 2016
    Oltre il velo / Fotezza Nuova – Livorno, Italy
  • 2016
    Les septs démons / Centre d’art contemporain – Bourg-en- Bresse, France
  • 2016
    Biennale des photographes du monde arabe / Institut du Monde Arabe – Paris, France
  • 2016
    Festival Arts Canteen / Espace – London, United Kingdom
  • 2016
    Addis Foto Fest / Espace – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • 2016
    Dak’Art / Espace – Dakar, Senegal
  • 2016
    SomethingElse / Off Cairo Biennal – Cairo, Egypt
  • 2015
    Traces ; Fragments d’une Tunisie contemporaine / MUCEM (Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) – Marseille, France
  • 2015
    Bamako Photography Encounters / Espace – Bamako, Mali
  • 2015
    Festival de la photo de Fez / Espace – Fess, Morocco
  • 2014
    Monochrome, Regard sur la création contemporaine en Tunisie / Fondation de la Maison de Tunisie – Paris, France
  • 2014
    27èmes Instants vidéo Poétiques / La Friche la belle de mai – Marseille, France
  • 2014
    Dak’Art / Monochrome – Dakar, Senegal
  • 2013
    World Nomads, After the revolution / FIAF Gallery – New York, United States
  • 2013
    Les rencontres photographique d’Arles / Quartier d’Afrique – Arles, France
  • 2012
    The harassement exhibition / Darb center – Cairo, Egypt
  • 2012
    Frontières / B’chira Art Center – Ariana, Tunisia
  • 2012
    Biennial of Contemporary Art / Espace – Tunis & Sfax, Tunisia
  • 2012
    Bamako Photography Encounters, / Espace – Bamako, Mali
  • 2012
    Printemps des Arts Fair / Espace – Tunis, Tunisia
  • 2011
    No sky, No earth / Dar Mima – Gammarth, Tunisia
  • 2011
    Festival des Droits Humains et des Cultures du Monde / Espace – Lahay-la- rose, France
  • 2010
    Biennal of Contemporary Art / Espace – Tunis, Tunisia
  • 2009
    Sur les traces de la peinture contemporaine / Galerie El Marsa – El Marsa, Tunisia
  • 2006
    Salon International d’Art contemporain / Espace – Grenoble, France

Solo exhibitions

  • 2016
    Moove the lines / Le violon Bleu Gallery – Tunis, Tunisia
  • 2014
    Tarz (Embroidery) / Le violon Bleu Gallery – Tunis, Tunisia
  • 2010
    Inter-dit / El Marsa Gallery – La Marsa, Tunisia
  • 2007
    Exposition individuelle / El Marsa Gallery – La Marsa, Tunisia
  • 2006
    Exposition individuelle / Kenais Gallery – Saint-Prex, Switzerland
  • 2005
    Exposition individuelle / El Marsa Gallery – La Marsa, Tunisia
  • 2003
    Exposition individuelle / MilleFeuilles Gallery – La Marsa, Tunisia

Publications

  • 2016
    Fotota– Regards d’artistes sur les archives
  • 2016
    Africultures– Passer à travers les murs
  • 2015
    L'Œil de la photographie– Les identités féminines de Héla Ammar
  • 2014
    ibraaz– The Woven Archive
  • 2013
    ibraaz– What role can the archive play in developing and sustaining a critical and culturally located art history?

Permanent collections

  • 2017
    British Museum, United Kingdom
  • 2016
    Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunisia
  • 2015
    Fondation BIAT, Tunisia
  • 2014
    Tunisian ministery of Culture, Tunisia
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