Timeframe: 12 years of the Sikka Art and Design Festival

Once a visual arts event with local and regional artists, it has grown to encompass film screenings, music, talks and workshops

A visitor at the GYEM project during the Sikka Art Fair in 2013. Jaime Puebla / The National
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The Sikka Art and Design Festival, a pillar event under the Dubai art season umbrella, has returned.

Now in its 12th season, the inaugural festival began as the Sikka Art Fair, and took place over seven days in 2011. The affair originally focused on visual artworks from local and regional artists. For years, it was held in the narrow alleyways of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Dubai, a district that reflected Emirati life from the mid-19th century to the 20th century.

Sikka means “alleys” and the event is named after the passageways between low-rise structures in the historical neighbourhood close to Dubai Creek (still called Al Bastakiya by most long-time residents).

The Sikka Art Fair was an initiative created by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, which was started under Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, in 2008.

Over the years, as the festival has grown, it has brought together visual artists, performers, designers, musicians and other creative parties to present artworks, concerts, murals, poetry readings and film screenings. This year’s event is being held in Al Shindagha, once Dubai’s centre and home to its ruling family, for the first time.

The festival is now held under the patronage of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid, chairwoman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and member of Dubai Council.

This year's event is a more spacious address that has narrow alleyways, museums that pay homage to local traditions and customs, barajeel wind towers and architectural vernacular. There are more than 100 artworks across 14 traditional houses and musical performances that include singers, violinists and qanun players.

Despite its new location, the festival still offers the opportunity to simultaneously discover old Dubai as well as numerous emerging artists, with works that range from sprawling installations in the district's alleys inspired by traditional designs to pieces that tackle generative artificial intelligence.

Updated: March 01, 2024, 6:01 PM