Khouloud El Zowi is a Libyan fine artist with a passion. In 1998, she obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Art and Journalism of Tripoli. Further to her initial degree, she spent 14 years studying music, which she now teaches, and drama in the Jamel Eddine EL Miledi Institute of Music and Drama.
However, though she originally established herself as an award-winning musician, composer and soloist, painting remains her overriding passion.
From an early age, Khouloud believed that art carried a divine message. Given its importance to her, nothing, she concluded, could be more fulfilling than transforming her passions into a creative career. It is a conviction that continues to drive her. “Over the years, my paintings have developed and refined my style.” She said, “They are my voice. They simply unravel my inner feelings and messages.”
Describing her work as a “free space where chains have no place,” Khouloud pulls together a wide variety of materials to create vibrant canvasses from sand, newspaper and magazine cuttings combined with watercolours and gouache.
The eyes (gaze) of the other
In 2004, Khouloud made the decision to turn from music and dedicate herself fully to art, staging her first exhibition, Eyes (Gaze) of the Other at the Dar Hassan EL fEkih Hassan gallery in Tripoli that year.
Three years later, she was the co-organizer of an exhibition featuring Arab and international artists in the Association of Libyan-German Friendship in Tripoli.
In 2010, Khouloud’s third exhibition at the Hassan el Fekih Hassan gallery, The Revelation of Memory, won the Innovation award, later known as the Septimus award and earned her a nomination as the best Libyan fine artist.
In 2015, two years after participating with other African artists in the Urban Soup exhibition in London, Khouloud’s painting “Desires” was featured on the cover of the 11th edition of the magazine, The Middle East in London.
Talismans of the Spirit
Khouloud was born into an artistic environment. “I was lucky to grow up in a house furnished with all forms of art. My father was a writer, a critic and a TV director with an overwhelming passion for art. He was also a collector of art, antiques, and the esoteric. My father supported and encouraged my musical talent, before I broadened my passion for art and then dedicated myself fully to fine art.”
Following her father’s death, Khouloud staged, Talismans of the Spirit, an exhibition in his memory. Featuring works shaded in her father’s favourite colour, yellow, Khouloud pulled together any number of materials to create collages of signs and symbols dedicated to her father.
Tragedy visited Khouloud again when her sister, Hend El Zoi, died during childbirth, a loss that Khouloud also chose to include within her art. Addressing her lost sibling, Khouloud says, “We were kids when I told you about my desire to have a daughter called Hend. This desire has never left me. Now that we are getting older, Hend is born through the forty paintings I have made. She is born from my sorrow and bitter pain over your absence. O’ my lady we will keep sharing everything as we have always done”. During her conversation with us, Khouloud revealed details of the preparations for her sixth exhibition, simply called “Hend” in honour of her sister.
Further to serving as a commemoration of her sister’s memory, the new exhibition will also testify to the courage Libya’s women have been forced to show since 2011.The exhibition will honour the women that Khouloud has met at the crossroads of life, of those who left their mark in her memory and now in her art.
If Khouloud’s new exhibition has any message, it’s to draw attention to the predicament of Libya’s women, who are too often viewed as little more than easily labeled stereotypes. In reality, Libya’s women have endured myriad hardships, from murder, to displacement, and abductions.
In truth, Libya’s women are both strong and educated and have made advances in many fields, despite the obstacles they face. Pain never means weakness, pain is fuel.
The Ancient city
Further to her art, Khouloud also enjoys photography. Khouloud has captured various architectural images of historic Tripoli, which she has collated into an archive documenting much of the history of the ancient city.
Every artwork bears a resemblance to me somehow
However, above all else, Khouloud’s art is personal. The inclusion of poems, manuscripts, and motivational messages has allowed Khouloud to express herself and tell what has previously been untold. Ultimately, she says, her paintings resemble her.