Capturing Memories

In conversation with Sheikha Hanan Bint Hassan AlKhalifa

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She is the Labour Relations Director at the Kingdom’s Ministry of Labour, the head of the Photographers Club at the Bahrain Arts Society and above all, is known for her kind heart and words. Sheikha Hanan Bint Hassan AlKhalifa is a multifaceted lady who has been with the Ministry since long and finds it easy to connect with the problems faced by the work force in Bahrain.

With her dream project, a photographic display of Man and Labour, finally coming to an end, BTW joined Sheikha Hanan at her office where she shared with us the idea behind the exhibition and her passion towards the art of photography.

“The Ministry of Labor is like the mother for all the working sectors in Bahrain. Even during the tough times of our nation, the Ministry had its doors open for all those who were in need. But we have forgotten to show our gratitude to the support this organization has been giving to the public. As part of the Labour Day celebrations this year we decided to organise the Man and Labor exhibition as our way of thanking the Ministry on behalf of everyone in the Kingdom,” she says.

Sheikha Hanan feels glad to have sponsored the event, which saw 20 photographers including her, displaying a total of 40 of their best works which portray the labour force of the Kingdom. They were put on view in the lobby of the Ministry of Labour. “Even the employees here were really happy to see the exhibits as they could easily relate to the places and sometimes the workers who were portrayed in many of the photos,” says Sheikha Hanan.

“It was kind of our Ministry to have brought in all the pictures and our Asst. Undersecretary for Labour Affairs, Dr Mohammed Ali Al Ansari has also requested us to conduct another exhibition for the coming December. We have started our initial works for the same based on the theme depicting the cultural artisanat of Bahrain. ”

For Sheikha Hanan, photography is not just an art, but a magical instance where moments get frozen on to a single frame. As she says, “Behind the camera, we are a totally different person. Our imagination can take wings and fly to infinity. Once you capture a scene, it is next to impossible to replicate the same in your next click.” Sharing with us the happiness of being behind the lens she continues, “Once you have taken a picture and you look at it later, you will surely find something that was never thought to have been there while you were clicking. Such things always add to the beauty of that picture.”

She never misses a chance to photograph old houses. It brings back the memories of her paternal home that her family no longer owns. Telling us of the reason for this she says, “It is sometimes sad to watch old houses undergoing renovation where memories of one’s forefathers get completely wiped off. Photographs are the only way by which we can capture such memories and lock them for a lifetime.

“Honestly… I have been a motion picture camera person in the initial days,” she shares with a smile. “I would have been in Hollywood then… don’t you think?” She askes us, laughing and continues the stroll down memory lane. “I entered the digital era of photography in 2005 when I brought my first digital camera from Japan and clicked my first picture – ‘The Cherry Blossoms’.”

When we asked her about her role with the Bahrain Arts Society, Sheikha Hanan explains that the Bahrain Arts Society is a nonprofit cultural organization that works for the betterment of the art sector in the Kingdom. Sheikh Rashid Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa is its founder. She feels blessed to be a board member of the society and head its photographic club.

“Last year, our team won the World Championship in Photography.” Sheikha Hanan proudly tells of the annual photographic contest conducted by the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP). Last year’s competition venue was Turkey. They were a team of 10 people each putting up 10 pictures each in black and white. Sheikh Rashid was extremely kind to have sponsored their team and the efforts didn’t go to waste as they returned world champions, making the nation proud. With the approval of Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed AlKhalifa, the photos that won international fame were on display at the Bahrain National Theatre during the annual art exhibition, which was opened by HRH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman AlKhalifa. This victory of the team brings with it a new hope for the upcoming photographers of the Kingdom.

“Our nation is indeed blessed to have many talented artists. But we are still not visible on the world map of artistes,” she says. Elaborating on this situation, she laments, “If you see the European art world, they have considerably moved on from the classics to surrealism since the end of the Second World War. It is because of the numerous efficient institutes they have that teach professional art. But here in our region we have hardly 1 or 2 proficient centers and many times those talented artists who come out from there end up being art teachers.

But luckily for us, the scenario is fast changing today and as I always say there is a place for everyone in this world and real talents will always show one day.”