'The Majestic', from Shezad Dawood's The 99 Names of God series. Photo Courtesy of the artist/Traffic Gallery
Shezad Dawood’s conceptual work is gaining increasing attention on the international stage.

Conceptual attempt to bridge East-West divide

Shezad Dawood's work explores issues of ethnicity and cultural identity. It's also steeped in contemporary politics and the cultural zeitgeist. But is it art?

The judges of the US$1 million (Dh3.67 million) Abraaj Capital art prize certainly think so, and Dawood is one of five winners of this year's competition, the world's most lucrative art prize, open to artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region and awarded on the basis of proposals rather than finished works.

Dawood, 36, is a British artist of Indo-Pakistani descent. His work is heavily conceptual, giving overriding weight to the ideas involved; the artistry seems to lie both in the birth of those ideas and in the craft or guile involved in their conception.

The work on display at the Traffic Gallery comes from his series of neon-lit Quranic verses.

Dawood commissioned manufacturers to produce a series of blown-glass lights, spelling out in Arabic some of the 99 names of God.

These are set amid bushes of tumbleweed, imported from Kansas in the US Midwest, with the ensemble encased in a glass box.

The tumbleweed works as a metaphor for the Wild West, for the desert wastes of the Deep South.

The series points up the perceived similarities in desert cultures - those of the Bedouin nomadic tribes, and of the colonial settlers of the southern US borderlands. It foregrounds the irony that both cultures came into being amid similarly extreme conditions, given the prevailing enmity so rife today between those regions' political extremes. Their juxtaposition comes as an attempt to negotiate the divide between East and West, reconciling the occasionally diametrically opposed politics of those regions - by finding similarities between the cultures.

"The series was a response to the 'clash of civilisations' rhetoric that came out of world media post-9/11, and became the prevailing attitude," says Dawood. "It was a very dangerous set of soundbites, and very reductive.

"I was attempting to map out those worlds, and to resolve the binaries. The works were an attempt to traverse East and West, finding the similarities rather than differences. The mythology of the Old West, the frontier culture - with posters- like Wanted; Dead or Alive - isn't too different from the Arabian desert, though there's a tension between cultures."

It's certainly a compelling observation. The harsh ecological conditions in which these cultures came into being certainly influenced the ways of life which are to some extent functions of geography. It's also provocative.

"The question was how to visualise these ideas in a more abstract way," he says. "I didn't want to be too literal. In the end, it was an intuitive moment - a lightbulb moment, where intuition takes over and resolves it for you in a formal, aesthetic way."


Galaxy: Dos Santos (79', 88')
United: Rashford (2', 20'), Fellaini (26'), Mkhitaryan (67'), Martial (72')

Your Guide to the Home
  • Level 1 has a valet service if you choose not to park in the basement level. This level houses all the kitchenware, including covetable brand French Bull, along with a wide array of outdoor furnishings, lamps and lighting solutions, textiles like curtains, towels, cushions and bedding, and plenty of other home accessories.
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Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.


Creator: Tima Shomali

Starring: Tara Abboud, Kira Yaghnam, Tara Atalla

Rating: 4/5


Female 49kg: Mayssa Bastos (BRA) bt Thamires Aquino (BRA); points 0-0 (advantage points points 1-0).

Female 55kg: Bianca Basilio (BRA) bt Amal Amjahid (BEL); points 4-2.

Female 62kg: Beatriz Mesquita (BRA) v Ffion Davies (GBR); 10-2.

Female 70kg: Thamara Silva (BRA) bt Alessandra Moss (AUS); submission.

Female 90kg: Gabreili Passanha (BRA) bt Claire-France Thevenon (FRA); submission.

Male 56kg: Hiago George (BRA) bt Carlos Alberto da Silva (BRA); 2-2 (2-0)

Male 62kg: Gabriel de Sousa (BRA) bt Joao Miyao (BRA); 2-2 (2-1)

Male 69kg: Paulo Miyao (BRA) bt Isaac Doederlein (USA); 2-2 (2-2) Ref decision.

Male 77kg: Tommy Langarkar (NOR) by Oliver Lovell (GBR); submission.

Male 85kg: Rudson Mateus Teles (BRA) bt Faisal Al Ketbi (UAE); 2-2 (1-1) Ref decision.

Male 94kg: Kaynan Duarte (BRA) bt Adam Wardzinski (POL); submission.

Male 110kg: Joao Rocha (BRA) bt Yahia Mansoor Al Hammadi (UAE); submission.


1 Esha Oza, age 26, 79 matches

2 Theertha Satish, age 20, 66 matches

3 Khushi Sharma, age 21, 65 matches

4 Kavisha Kumari, age 21, 79 matches

5 Heena Hotchandani, age 23, 16 matches

6 Rinitha Rajith, age 18, 34 matches

7 Samaira Dharnidharka, age 17, 53 matches

8 Vaishnave Mahesh, age 17, 68 matches

9 Lavanya Keny, age 17, 33 matches

10 Siya Gokhale, age 18, 33 matches

11 Indhuja Nandakumar, age 18, 46 matches


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

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