Ras Al Khaimah Arts Festival returns with more than 100 artists taking part

This year, the festival will also host satellite exhibitions at Jebel Jais and Al Marjan Island

The ninth annual Ras Al Khaimah Arts Festival (RAKFAF) will take place in February with more than 100 regional and international artists participating.

The 2021 iteration bears the theme of hope. The festival includes outdoor art and photography exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and the launch of an oral history project around the historic pearling village of Al Jazirah Al Hamra, which is where the festival has been taking place for the last two years. Built around the 14th century, the town is remarkable for its architecture, with buildings made using traditional materials such as coral, mud and date palms.

This year, RAKFAF is also presenting two satellite exhibitions – one on the public viewing desk of Jebel Jais, UAE’s highest peak, and the other at the Open Park on Al Marjan Island.

With a focus on emerging talent, the festival will present more than 130 artworks by artists from 49 countries. Local visual artists and photographers include Azza Al Nuaimi, a graphic designer from Ras Al Khaimah whose work fuses heritage and contemporary design and photographers Nuwair Al Hejari, whose recent project documented harvest season in the Bidya desert, and Faisal Al Rais, who focuses on street photography. The artist list includes names from the wider Mena region and South Asia.

RAKFAF has also tapped French-Israeli curator Sharon Toval to present four video artworks by Israeli artists, marking the first time that an Israeli art curator has participated in the festival.

The oral history project consists of short films shot at villas in Al Jazirah Al Hamra Heritage Village with former residents chronicling their daily lives when the pearl trade flourished. The project will serve as a historical record of life in the emirate decades ago and preserve Ras Al Khaimah’s cultural heritage.

Independent filmmakers from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia and Hungary will be screening their works throughout the duration of the festival until April, with screenings taking place in Al Hamra Mall and the Open Park.

The works of Al Qasimi Foundation Film Grant recipients Anna Kipervaser and Majid Alloush will premiere at this year's festival. Last year, the two received a start-up funding of Dh25,000 to produce their short film. Titled Synopsis: Terrain Ahead, the experimental documentary explores the impact of humans on the UAE coastline over the last 100 years.

RAKFAF has also established new partnerships with other art organisations in the UAE, namely Art Dubai and NYUAD's Arts Centre. Hala Khayat, Art Dubai's regional director, will present a talk during the festival, while NYUAD Arts Centre will host a virtual workshop by musician and ethnomusicologist, Ghazi Al Mulaifi.

In a statement, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, highlighted how art can bring community together: “2020 was indeed the most challenging of years for our community and this year’s festival emerges at a crucial time, early in the new year as our community looks to new beginnings, and with an exciting and enriching programme presented around the theme of hope – a theme that seems so relevant in these unprecedented times and one that explores the strength and compassion that holds our community together.”

RAKFAF will run until April 3.

More information can be found on rakfinearts.ae