Abu Dhabi Art 2020: Three Emirati artists selected to create work for emerging talent programme

The Beyond section will explore the theme of memory through works by Hind Mezaina, Afra Al Dhaheri and Afra Al Suwaidi

Gateway: Fragments, Yesterday and Today exhibition at The 11th edition of Abu Dhabi Art. Curated by Paolo Colombo.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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While most of Abu Dhabi Art's programming will take place online this year, its annual Beyond: Emerging Artists section will have both a digital and physical exhibition, with the latter to be presented at Manarat Al Saadiyat in November.

Every year, the fair commissions Emirati artists to create new works for its mentorship programme, Beyond. For the second year in a row, the selected artists are all women, namely Hind Mezaina, Afra Al Dhaheri and Afra Al Suwaidi.

Curated by Maya El Khalil, who put together this year’s 21,39 in Jeddah, the section centres on the theme of memory.

Primarily using photography and film, Mezaina will dig into archival material to investigate notions of collective memory, masculinity and heritage in the UAE. The artist, who has curated film programmes such as Cinem’Art at Louvre Abu Dhabi, refers to her work as ‘visual archaeology’. Mezaina has exhibited at Sharjah Art Foundation and Maraya Art Centre.

The experimental and material-based work of Al Dhaheri has encompassed sculpture, drawing, installation and photography. For Beyond, she uses her own hair strands as material, creating work that will consider self-identity, the representation of the female body and societal restrictions imposed on women. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Al Dhaheri was part of the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (Seaf) and has exhibited at Dubai’s Green Art Gallery.

Using collage, Al Suwaidi examines how trauma appears in domestic architecture or everyday surroundings in the home. Her work reconstructs splintered memories as a way to question the notion of time. Currently, she is an artist in residence at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi, and her work is part of the newly launched 101 platform for artists.

In a statement, curator El Khalil expanded on the theme for the 2020 programme: “Together [with the artists], we acknowledge the art world’s currently altered sense of reality and each of the artists, through their distinctive practices, will be investigating how experiences of remembrance are constituted.”

She also commented on her role in working with the up-and-coming artists. “Throughout the years, working alongside emerging artists, I have developed a strong sense of understanding that the journey of emerging or becoming is a process of discovery. I see myself as a guide, making way for up and coming artists by asking questions rather than answering them,” she said.

The 12th iteration of Abu Dhabi Art will include additional curated sections and will revive its performance programme. With a total of six guest curators, including El Khalil, the event will feature dedicated sections on South Korean, Indian and African art, as well as a thematic section on time featuring UAE galleries.

In addition, a Talks Programme will also be held virtually, offering conversations and panels with figures from the art world in the UAE and around the world.

The virtual fair, which includes the viewing rooms, performances and multimedia material, will be open to the public from Thursday, November 19 to Thursday, November 26.