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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 3 March 2021

Windows on the pandemic reflected through the eyes of young UAE artists

Book art by Zayed University students being shown in gallery in Abu Dhabi

Zayed University art student Maitha Al Omaira was a central part of putting together the exhibition. Image: supplied
Zayed University art student Maitha Al Omaira was a central part of putting together the exhibition. Image: supplied

With Covid-19 related restrictions meaning that students were spending less time on campus, Maitha Al Omaira had an urge to give her peers the opportunity to showcase their art publicly “beyond being restricted to the campus walls”.

The result was the ‘Through the window’ book art exhibition, which showcases books made by Zayed University's College of Arts and Creative Enterprises students. They will be on show at the Etihad Modern Art Gallery in Abu Dhabi over the next two months.

The pandemic also inspired the theme of the exhibition – the ‘windows’ referring to people’s perspectives on their experiences during the pandemic.

In particular, the artists depicted in their books the emotions they felt during the period of travel and movement restrictions earlier this year.

Some people reflected windows in a quite sad way to say the least but to me the time spent home during summer was very inspirational surprisingly

Art student Maitha Al Omaira

“Some people reflected windows in a quite sad way to say the least but to me the time spent home during summer was very inspirational surprisingly. I was able to write a lot of poems after being in a writer’s block for as long as I remember,” said Ms Al Omaira, a visual arts senior from Abu Dhabi.

“Looking at the moon every night from my window resulted in various pages of poetry.

“Therefore, in my book I used the moon as a ‘window’ and created the moon phases using my poetry.

“Between every page I added a handmade envelope that also includes a poem in it, because the poems that create the moon phase were more like marks than handwriting, so I wanted people to actually read and understand the poems."

The exhibition, despite being organised quickly, highlighted the co-operative side of the students, said Ms Al Omaira.

“I found the teamwork very heart warming between them and it felt like we were all a team even though we barely know each other that much. Arranging the books in the gallery along with another visual arts student, Salama Alfalasi was so much fun too.

“We spent the day at the gallery pushing the plinths around the gallery room trying to find a good spot. We also filmed a video doing so, it made the process look very fun.”

Ms Alfalasi, a third year student, illustrated in her book “what quarantine felt like”.

“I wanted to paint different views and different windows to show that we were all stuck at home, yet we were all in this together. The book has a specific order and tells a short simple story about quarantine during this pandemic,” she said, referring to the period during which the strictest restrictions on movement were in place to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

We are blessed when we have the chance to see other people’s cultures and visit their countries to live the experience

Art student Moza Abdulla AlQubaisi

Visual arts student Moza Abdulla AlQubaisi said since there has been little chance of travel this year, she created her book as a reminder that “we are blessed when we have the chance to see other people’s cultures and visit their countries to live the experience”.

Shoug Abdulla, a 24-year old Emirati visual arts senior, who is very much interested in her own heritage and vocal history, said her book is a journey in history through stamps.

“I used accordion style pages, so that when it's all pulled opened you can see the whole timeline and the stamps. Plexi-glass was used as a front and back cover, with the front cover cut out into the shape of a stamp using the laser cutter,” she said.

Shoug Abdulla's work is a journey in history through stamps. Image: Supplied
Shoug Abdulla's work is a journey in history through stamps. Image: Supplied

She made the book for a collection of stamps she owns.

A critical part of the exhibition was that the organisation of it was done by the students.

“It is important for us students to learn more about art in the professional field prior to graduation so that they can have experience and as the CACE student council president I want to provide more opportunities for the students,” Ms Al Omaira said.

Ultimately for Ms Al Omaira, getting back into the studios at Zayed University has become the highlight of her year.

“I really missed working in the studio amongst other students. Working at home has a lot of benefits to be honest, but we do miss being there and working on our projects together,” she said.

Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied

Online learning was an eye-opening experience for her, however. Video instruction in particular became a very useful tool.

“It made the process easier and I also wondered if we had to do it in the studio will we be able to quickly remember the instructions? I think the videos and online lectures might co-exist with on-campus classes in the future because the pandemic taught us that there are things we could certainly do online.”

Updated: November 25, 2020 10:54 AM

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