In Kuwaiti slang the word Umbai expresses a statement of surprise at the absurd and unexpected. It is reserved only for the tongues of Kuwaiti women so much that if a man simply utters the word, they are accused of being gay. The word represents how dominant discourses regulate gender and sexuality in modern-day Kuwaiti society. In this context, artist Munirah Almehri has been interested in the ways that queer futurism becomes a crucial tool for those denied a future under the hetero-patriarchy. Operating through the anonymous, the absurd, the stereotypical, the ultra-binary, and the phantasmic, the author has created five characters in their own idealistic worlds to portray the potentiality of other ways of being. Manoeuvring between documentary photography and constructed self-portraits, the work depicts a culturally-bound expression of queer idealism.
Munirah Almehri (Kuwait, 2000) is a photographer based in London, whose work has been published locally and internationally. Her current project, Umbai, explores new ways of being through constructed self-portraits that present culturally-bound expressions of queerness. Her previous work deals with the production of speculative “anarchives” to portray Kuwait’s relationship between nationalism, religion, and modernity. In response to her interests in technocolonialism and datafication as disciplinary power, she rearranges certain signs of the past into the present to criticise the false promise of progress through technology. In 2022 Almehri graduated from the Goldsmiths University of London with a Bachelor in Media and Communications.