New fund launched for UAE's creative talents

The peer-led Dirwaza Curatorial Lab is looking to support open-ended projects

The installation 'Al-Burkan' by Fadel Al Mheiri at Dirwaza Curatorial Lab's exhibition Zemanna in Abu Dhabi. Al Mheiri celebrates the pastimes of the 1990s, such as the popular game Connect 4. Victor Besa / The National
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“We’re looking for the curious,” said Munira Al Sayegh, whose Dirwaza Curatorial Lab has launched a new micro-fund initiative for UAE creative practitioners, across a number of disciplines.

The funding scheme, which began at the start of May, will give Dh1,000 to one successful applicant per month for the next six months. The grantees will also receive mentorship during the time they are executing their proposals, from the Dirwaza Curatorial Lab and the micro-fund project curator Sarah Daher.

Dirwaza was founded in 2020 by the Abu Dhabi curator Al Sayegh to foster research and collaborative opportunities for artists and creative practitioners in the Gulf. The lab is run as a peer-led effort beyond major institutional partners, and its projects remain close to communities on the ground in the UAE and across the Gulf, and aim to think through what is needed from an artist-led standpoint.

“The micro-fund encourages creatives at large to think cyclically and in throughlines, so that curatorial practice, as well as artistic practice, has a beginning, a theme, a particular exploration and the right to a conceptual framework,” said Al Sayegh.

"The incubator invites the creative community to come and think thoroughly, without having an end result or an exhibition in mind. The idea is that we are working with you, and we're thinking alongside you.”

Dirwaza has also curated Zemanna — Replaying the 90s, which has been on display at Manarat Al Saadiyat. The exhibition investigates the 1990s in Abu Dhabi through pop culture paraphernalia alongside nine installations by local artists, including Afra Al Dhaheri, Jumairy, Mays Albaik and Sree.

The show grounds itself in items of material culture from that era, which was one of financial and demographic transformation, but which also function as a source of nostalgia for many in the UAE. By drawing on pop culture from the time, it cleverly conflates the sense of childhood with the wider nostalgia for the UAE, before the large-scale expansion and investment of the 2000s onwards.

The curatorial lab’s next project will be a collaboration with the students at NYUAD’s new MFA programme, in an exhibition of their work in progress opening at Warehouse421 on Saturday, May 21.

Updated: May 13, 2022, 3:10 PM