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Life’s Armor

This body of work was inspired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which Yahya visited to see the helmet of Bouabdil, the last king of Andalusia. While walking through the Arts and Armor galleries, Yahya was struck by the idea of the brave warriors who once wore the armor and carried the weapons to war. He was also amused by the contradiction with the inanimate mannequins that now bear the same objects, on display and locked behind glass.

In his paintings, the figures are wearing heavy suits of armor and weapons inspired by examples from Islamic history. However, hey cannot move because of static display poles in place of feet,  seless mounts in place of real horses, and the huge weight of what they are wearing and carrying. He has arranged the figures as if they are exhibited in museum vitrines or in compositions derived from popular culture. Most recognisable of these is a ridiculous pose from the famous Warhol vs Basquiat ‘boxing poster’ of 1985; another is based on an image of Mike Tyson sitting, exhausted and defeated, in the corner of the ring.

These works are satirical commentaries on the futile warriors of the present day and the humiliating demise of rulers across the Arab world, not unlike that of Bouabdil, who famously wept as he looked back at his kingdom for the last time. Just as armor once worn by a brave warrior now adorns a useless puppet, the leaders of the past are rendered inept in today’s world.