Art exhibitions showcase UAE diversity

Shows in Dubai and Abu Dhabi involve the work of artists from many countries, all of whom live in the UAE.

January 16, 2011 / Abu Dhabi / Sam Faix help helps put together an art expiation at the National Theater in Abu Dhabi January 16, 2011 . (Sammy Dallal / The National)
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Two art exhibitions aiming to unite the work of the multinational community in the UAE open this week.

Worlds Together, a contemporary show of eight artists from eight countries, opened last night at the Marsam Mattar Gallery in Dubai. Seven Perspectives, from the art collective Abu Dhabi Art Squad, opens tonight in the capital.

Organisers of both shows say they hope to reflect the variety of the nationalities living in the UAE.

Sumayyah al Suwaidi, the Emirati curator of the Dubai show, said she wanted to bring the art community together.

“Within the Emirati art scene, we mainly only know each other, so I wanted to bring in new names and new blood into our community. Plus, these people are living here in the UAE, they are part of the community, and it is not fair that we don’t include them.”

The show in Abu Dhabi is under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. It features the work of seven artists from seven countries — all members of the Art Squad.

Said Ali Sowafy, 37, from Uganda, is one of the founding members. He said the original aim was just to swap artistic notes.

“We started off simply wanting to share different opinions, but we ended up bridging the gap between cultures. This exhibition is indicative of that. It is a converging point for all of our cultures,” he said.

The show features work from a Briton who paints seascapes of Yas and Saadiyat Islands; a Bulgarian who uses Arabic calligraphy; and a Pakistani who concentrates on the wildlife of the UAE.

Mr Sowafy’s work combines both the Arab and the African traditions in his background. Such art collectives are relatively rare in the UAE.

Rachael Brown, the head of special projects at the JamJar Gallery in Dubai, said there were none like the Art Squad in Dubai.

“There are plenty of communities of artists who often collaborate, but nothing as a formal collective,” she said.

“In other countries such as the UK, joining forces as a collective works because they can apply together for funding. But here in Dubai, there are not those sorts of structures in place. So I don’t see it makes that much difference if you are formal or not.”

Jalal Luqman, an Emirati artist and owner of the Ghaf Gallery in Abu Dhabi, said he welcomed the addition of these collectives to the art scene, as long as they had a genuine interest in the UAE.

“In my mind, an expat is someone who has immersed themselves in society, learned a bit of the language and culture and so can add to the artistic environment of the country,” he said.