Man wearing a hat and sunglasses holding a record album, standing in front of two shelves displaying records

Mohamed Jneibi

As an artist and archivist, Mohamed Al Jneibi realized collecting shouldn’t be hidden away from the world. His collections of photographs, music, and articles of Emirati artists are shown around the globe to shed light on the artists that never got a chance to share their talent with others. While at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, he noticed a difference between generations; the older generation thinks what Mohamed does is a lost art, while the younger visitors want to know more about archiving. But one thing is clear — Mohamed’s work brings generations together.

“My passion for archiving started a long time ago. For years, I collected unique objects around the house and wherever else I could find them. After a while, I realized they shouldn’t be kept hidden away from the world; sharing unique and rare items with the world is necessary for collective memory. I collected tapes, vinyl records, and even publications that revolve around the beginning and evolution of music in the Gulf, and then the Emirates specifically, which I then decided to showcase at exhibitions and festivals like the Folklife Festival in the US.

“I have always wanted to exhibit photographs and articles of Emirati artists and shed light on the musicians that never had the chance to share their talent with the world. I feel a responsibility to archive and exhibit their work as a sort of public homage to their art.

“I am pleasantly surprised by the questions Americans have asked me and their cultural knowledge of the Middle East. Some have come to me to ask me about popular artists and share their passion for Arabic music, while others follow the sound of the oud and ask me for recommendations. The older generation would say to me that what I do is a lost art, while the younger visitors say that they are committed to finding gems in records stores and want to know more about archiving. I believe this is what my work does, it builds a bridge between generations. It is in festivals like this where the dream can eventually become a reality.”

  • Round piece of artwork hanging on the wall with Arabic script
  • Mohamed Jneibi standing with a vinyl record collection
  • Mohamed Jneibi sitting next to an old vinyl record player