by Danica Pinteric
Danica Pinteric is an author, editor and curator based in Toronto, Canada.
National Bank Private Banking 1859 is proud to partner with artist Rihab Essayh to present The Hymn of the Warriors of Love at Plural.
Amid the frenzy of booth displays and conversations at Plural, multidisciplinary artist Rihab Essayh’s installation, The Hymn of the Warriors of Love (2022-), injects a moment of peace into the fair’s buzzing atmosphere. Through a combination of video, sound, drawing, and textile works, Essayh's project proposes a utopian near-future where visitors can rest and recharge. In a culture that often prioritizes productivity over collective care, Essayh's hypothetical world provides a refreshing alternative that emphasizes community and recuperation. With its soothing environment, The Hymn of the Warriors of Love invites its audience to shed everyday stress and distractions and redirect attention toward our relationships to ourselves and others. Essayh’s approach is informed by the theoretical foundations of radical softness and Afrofuturism, fusing ideas from both to define her signature ethos of soft futurism — a sensibility that uncompromisingly imagines new and equitable futures that identifies vulnerability and interdependence as pillars of collective liberation and wellbeing.
Envisioned as an oasis of connection and tenderness, The Hymn of the Warriors of Love responds to feelings of isolation and turmoil sparked by the pandemic lockdowns and returns focus to embodied encounters with art. The installation’s serene pink and orange gradient curtains, reminiscent of calming sunsets, offer an opportunity to “bathe” in colour, providing a therapeutic immersion into warm hues that recall the sense of peace the artist experienced on routine walks at the day’s end in 2021. Essayh’s sensuous palette and ethereal vocals evoke soft aesthetics found in online communities that reclaim femininity as a critical and meaningful avenue of expression. The Hymn of the Warriors of Love also traverses visual cultures, drawing inspiration from Moroccan Fantasia cavalry regalia in the costuming for the video and live performance given by Natalie Fasheh on the opening night of the fair.
Come stay with us dear
come lie here
we miss you
we haven't seen you in a while¹
The Hymn of the Warriors of Love is anchored by its enchanting chorus, the lyrics of which emerged from a collaboration between Essayh and Iranian-Canadian poet Mojeanne Behzadi. Essayh conceptualizes this song as an offering to the audience — a gesture that disrupts and brings nuance to conventional forms of exchange and transaction in the art fair context. Accepting Essayh’s gift is a deliberate process of re-attunement to the hymn’s gentle rhythms, finding its resonance in their own bodies through the radical act of slowing down.
¹Excerpt of lyrics from The Hymn of the Warriors of Love written by Rihab Essayh in collaboration with Mojeanne Behzadi.