Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Ashwaq Abdulla's dreamy watercolours paint a powerful history of Emirati women

An animation containing 10 of the artist's watercolour and pastel paintings celebrates women in the Emirates

Emirati women are at the heart of artist Ashwaq Abdulla’s latest work. Specifically, women referred to as “al mabrouka”, who are respected in society for their wisdom and generosity.

This term is the name of the artist’s digital animation, which features 10 watercolour and pastel paintings depicting the various roles of UAE women in the realm of textiles, crafts and agriculture.

In her paintings, Abdulla’s female subjects are suspended against vibrant backdrops of florals, patterns and landscapes. They represent the contributions that Emirati women have made throughout history – weaving baskets, transporting water, stitching textiles and creating traditional jewelry and clothing.

Emirati artist Ashwaq Abdulla will be going to California to hand in the trophy she has designed for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic (MSVC), the longest running women’s-only professional tennis tournament in the world. Courtesy of Mubadala
Emirati artist Ashwaq Abdulla with the trophy she designed for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic (MSVC). Courtesy of Mubadala

To show her animated paintings to the public, she has produced a video where the works are projected onto the walls of a high ceiling space. Immersed in light and colour, Abdulla walks around and observes her work. Abdulla produced the work with Emirati composer Muhammad Al Ahmad, who provided the music for the animation.

The artist says she hopes that her video makes viewers “understand the role of the Emirati woman and the impact she had on our society throughout the generations.”

She has also included a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, who spoke of the importance of literacy for women in the UAE.

AC15 SEP Art Ashwaq Abdulla Digital Exhibition
Abdulla includes a tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed in her video work. Courtesy the artist

Abdulla, who lives in Abu Dhabi, studied interior design and graphic art at the city’s Higher Colleges of Technology. Her work is often tied to Emirati culture, combining elements of local culture with nationalistic tributes.

Her paintings of the UAE’s wildlife and natural landscapes hang in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas and Four Seasons.

Last year, she became the first Emirati artist to design the official trophy of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, the world’s longest-­running women’s-only professional tennis tournament.

Speaking to The National last year, she referred to herself as a “social artist”, saying her Instagram following has grown in large part due to her drive to illustrate key issues, such as her watercolour tribute to the UAE's fallen soldiers.

“When I started my social media presence I started to communicate with the community through art and respond to social events through art. It’s very important. Now it’s a huge responsibility. If I don’t do it, people contact me to say, ‘Produce some art and talk about it’”

Updated: September 17, 2020 12:17 PM

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