Middle East artists join forces to help fight autism in UAE

Ataya Exhibition features high fashion, carpets and perfumes by 56 artists whose works will be sold and the proceeds donated to charity.

Ataya is a charity exhibition organised by the Red Crescent and Government ministries. It is held under the patronage of Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Artists from the Middle East have pooled their creativity to raise money for UAE autism centres. All funds raised from the Ataya Exhibition at the Abu Dhabi Country Club will be donated.

Some of the exhibition's 56 artists have created works whose proceeds will be donated entirely to charity.

These include three perfumes by the Kuwaiti fashion designers, and sisters, Hanan and Maali Al Saleh.

"A lot of children have this problem and, knowing this, everybody can do something for them, helping them in some way," said Hanan, who trained at a perfume school in New York.

Their perfumes were designed for the women of Abu Dhabi.

"I know the taste here," Maali said. "The taste here is strong. Strong and feminine."

Maali makes dresses and bisht cloaks with vintage textiles - Iranian embroidery, Afghani needlework and Indian, British and Greek prints.

"The problem with these pieces is most of them are old and dirty so you have to spend a lot of time on them," she said.

Each piece combines at least three textiles.

"You have to see more than 100 pieces to choose the right one that matches your collection," she said, pointing to her dress.

"So this one, for example, is three pieces. It's modern, but at the same time you can see the touch of history."

The exhibition showcases luxury artisanal goods. Competition to participate in the exhibition was fierce; each artist had to submit a portfolio before being accepted to exhibit.

Last year the exhibition raised more than Dh7 million for the children's cancer centre in Lebanon through rental fees, entrance fees and donations.

A Beiruti rug merchant, Mohamed Maktabi, designed eight pieces specifically for the exhibition's Abu Dhabi patrons. The carpets are a raised silk designed with interlinked purple Arabic script on a grey background. They are inspired by 16th-century calligraphy exercises in the Topkapi court of the Ottoman Empire.

The lettering in the carpets does not have any meaning. "We are afraid a word could have a religious meaning and these are carpets that are underfoot," Mr Maktabi said. "We're conservative about this."

The second annual exhibition is organised by the Red Crescent, Government ministries and under the patronage of Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan. The specific recipients of the donations will be decided later.

"Lately the UAE is doing many programmes to support this issue, to try to raise more awareness about this and to help people recognise autism in their children in case they need help in the early stages," said Hend Al Mehairbi, the marketing and fundraising manager for the Red Crescent. "We're trying to raise awareness."