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A trip down memory lane.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain wanted to end piracy in the Gulf to secure maritime trading routes to its East India Company in the Indies and in 1805, the ruling House of Khalifa offered their support.

This sign of good faith resulted in a friendly agreement between the British representatives in the Gulf and the Sheikhs of Bahrain in 1816. The General Treaty of Peace was then formalised in 1820 ushering in a long-lasting friendship.

In celebration of the two nations' rich history, the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) staged a photography exhibition entitled Explorations, Encounters, and Remembered Stories: 200 years of Bahrain-British Relations at the Bahrain National Museum.

The exhibition held under the patronage of His highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister and the British Council in Bahrain, is a platform to highlight people-to-people daily relationships between Bahrainis and British that lived in both countries.

Dr Nadine Boksmati-Fattouh, BACA's museum consultant who has been trained as an archaeologist and has been working in the museum field for more than 10 years, said: "For the past five years I have been focusing on local collections and have curated exhibitions that highlight the rich archaeological heritage of Bahrain. For the 200 years celebrations, I wanted to curate an archaeology exhibition but gradually the concept developed into a broader and definitely more interesting one.

"The making of the exhibition revealed an array of exciting finds, stories and recollections of events and experiences. I had initially envisaged a display focusing on archaeological finds and discoveries but it became quickly obvious that 'people' were the main thread that shaped the Bahraini-British past and that the enduring relationship between Bahrain and Britain has been built on unique and lasting friendships between individuals from both countries that have lived on in vivid memory. Many British people who once lived in Bahrain spoke of their time in glowing terms. Similarly, Bahrainis seem to have had memorable experiences in the United Kingdom.

"This human element shifted the focus of the exhibition from archaeological artefacts to people's encounters and remembered stories."

It took Nadine and the other curators including Mustafa Ibrahim, Lubna AlOmran, Fidaa AlZaydani, Yusra Huwaida, Abdallah AlMajed, Khaled AlObaidat, Eman Huwaida and Hameeda Osman around six months of intensive research to prepare for the exhibition.

The scenography was created by Ainu, France's Stephane Pennec, Caroline Elkouby, Augustin de Valence and Christian Valdes. Ainu is a fine art services company providing personalised and expert services for museums, galleries, private collectors and luxury brands.

In terms of videos, Marie Doucedame worked on mapping Bahrain and explorers, Augustin de Valence covered British archaeological missions and Anies Hassan worked on Bu Maher. Intrepid Bahraini bloggers Hussain Almosawi and Mariam Alarab, known as the Dilmuni Couple, also conducted interviews and edited short movies such as the video on St Christopher's School.

The artifact mounting is also from Ainu and included the work of Augustin and Louis-Albin de Chavagnac. The graphic design was created by Polygraphic's Juliette Cheval and the production of the exhibition was conducted by Design Creative, Bahrain. BAPCO also gave access to their photographic archives. The translation was prepared by Hassan AlJundi.

Nadine said: "I used different sources such as publications, archives of BACA, Bahrain National Archive, Bapco, online blogs, and contacted the archaeologists and scholars that I have worked with over the years in Bahrain for information.

"The exhibit opened in December last year and was supposed to come to a close at the end of April but given the high attendance we decided to prolong it for four more months until the end of August."

A BD1 entrance will give you access to the entire museum as well as the exhibition which is mesmerizing with artifacts, old treaties and documents hanging on the walls along with videos and images explaining the 200 year journey.

One section of the exhibit features a range of displays on the first British explorers who visited such as Theodore and Mabel Bent who believed that the ancient Mediterranean people who gave us the modern Latin alphabet and founded Carthage may have originated in Bahrain.

This section also showcases how the explorers discovered the archaeological landscape of Bahrain and how this early research prompted scientific excavations.

There is also an illustrated interpretation of the different story in the form of an animation video projected on a large screen.

The second section of the exhibition touches on the modern era and the friendship between the Bahrainis and British, which is why the curators illustrated some of the experiences shared by both Bahrainis and British.

The museum is open from 8am to 8pm.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Aug 3, 2017
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