Velvet Society: Power and Glamour in 90s Damascus


Thursday, 23rd June 2022 | 18:00 - 21:00



Velvet Society: Power and Glamour in 90s Damascus Private View with Live Solo Viola Performance by Raghad Haddad



P21 Gallery in collaboration with Litehouse Gallery is honoured to present Velvet Society, an exhibition displaying the creative acts of survival in fashion and fabric of two Syrian women, civil engineer Raghad Mardini and artist Heba Al-Akkad. The 90s fashion collection of Mardini, emanating from the wealthy and powerful class of the self-styled “velvet society” prominent in 90s Syria, will be juxtaposed with a range of vibrant artworks made in fabric and fibre by Heba Al-Akkad. A powerful dialogue will be established between these collections, to expose a Damascus of the 90s dominated by complexes of glamour and power, at once joyful yet troubled, wielded both by and against the women in question.


The exhibition centres itself around the stories of these two Syrian Muslim women. From differing backgrounds, they, as refugees from the Syrian uprising, struck up a friendship founded on a mutual interest in creativity within visual arts. Viewers will bear witness to their testimonies of liberation from religious and patriarchal violence. Photographs, art objects and items of fashion are displayed to invigorate a commentary on feminism, female freedom and Syrian history, linked by the medium of textiles.


By bringing these stories to UK audiences in a seductive yet forceful exhibition, fashion devotees and art lovers alike will explore the political nature of clothing, how it shapes the representation of women in fashion, society and art. Beliefs about Middle Eastern women will be challenged and a broader and richer recent Syrian history will emerge.


A private view with the artist, Heba Al-Akkad, will be held Thursday 23rd of June at 7pm in the P21 Gallery, and will feature a solo viola performance of Syrian classical compositions by Raghad Haddad, a refugee in the UK and a member of the London Syrian Ensemble.



Heba Al-Akkad was born in Damascus in 1981. She graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University 2006. She now lives and works in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she has been able to escape the cycle of familial violence and abuse that she suffered since girlhood. She has had solo shows across Europe and the Middle East. Litehouse Gallery has commissioned work from Al-Akkad on themes of self-identity and dress.