Welcome to the latest edition of The Arts Edit, the weekly newsletter from The National's Abu Dhabi newsroom rounding up this week's most noteworthy arts and culture stories.
This week, The National visited the London Design Biennale, where its theme of Global Game: Remapping Collaborations has participants looking to the past for traditional design techniques that have something to offer the future.
The three pavilions participating from the Gulf – Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia – have drawn on their heritage to show how Bedouins survived and made crafts amid a scarcity of resources.
|The Dubai pavilion compares the UAE desert to the surface of Mars. Photo: London Design Biennale|
Interestingly, both Abu Dhabi's and Saudi Arabia’s pavilions are placing the traditional Al Sadu weaving process under the spotlight – showcasing the flat loom-based technique used to create decorative items and soft furnishings.
The Abu Dhabi pavilion won the Theme Medal for its stunning Formation of Soof, designed by Azza Alsharif for the House of Artisans. While Abu Dhabi's pavilion highlights the hands of the women, Saudi Arabia’s focuses on the weaving process, inviting the public to try their hand at an oversized loom.
Dubai’s pavilion creates a pathway between the past and future, by comparing the desert environment traversed by the Bedouins to that of the Martian territory explored by the Emirates Mars Mission's Hope rover.
Abdalla Almulla, who designed the pavilion, said: “Our generation, growing up, we never thought of things [like the Hope mission] as something possible. But then when it happens, you feel nothing is impossible and you can achieve it. You’re here at the right time and the right moment to achieve whatever you want.”
Hareth Al Bustani
Arts & Culture Editor
With only one weekend left to enjoy Sharjah Biennial 15 – it ends this Sunday – I visited the fascinating exhibition featuring tintype works by Khadija Saye, a British-Gambian artist who died in the 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire.
On show at Al Hamriyah Studios in the coastal area of Al Hamriyah, the photographic self-portraits explore traditional African spirituality and ritual as embodied practices to overcome trauma.
Saye was raised in a dual-faith household, with a Muslim father and Christian mother, and had a deep interest in activism, heritage and spirituality.
|Khadija Saye's works at Al Hamriyah Studios. Photo: Sharjah Art Foundation|
Nicola Green, a British artist who mentored Saye and has since helped to nurture her legacy, told me how the artist’s works were a powerful representation of the biennial’s theme of Thinking Historically in the Present – conceived by Okwui Enwezor and curated by Sharjah Art Foundation director Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi.
“By reviving the Victorian tintype technique, Khadija was quite literally thinking historically in the present and so I know that Okwui would be delighted to see Khadija's work in this biennial,” she said.
Green added: “Khadija Saye remains a source of light. Her warmth has been widely written about and, like so many others, I found her unusual in her graciousness, kindness and determination."
AN ARAB SPIDER-MAN?
Meanwhile, Saeed Saeed spoke with Brian Michael Bendis, comic book artist and co-creator of Spider-Man’s alter-ego Miles Morales – currently on the big screen in the widely celebrated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
In the latest iteration of Spider-Man, Morales becomes the first African American to play the character and the second Latino – following in the footsteps of the Mexican-Irish Miguel O'Hara from the 1990s series Spider-Man 2099.
Bendis told Saeed that Spider-Man, originally co-created by the late US author Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko in 1962, could shift between race and cultures due to the universal subjects the series deals with.
|Brian Michael Bendis co-created Spider-Man's alter-ego, Miles Morales. Getty Images |
“And that’s the genius of Stan, because he created the bulletproof theme for the books, which is ‘with great power comes great responsibility’,” he says.
He also said he believed the next comic book hero could emerge from the Arab world’s rich tapestry of culture and history.
"I genuinely believe there is an untapped market of really modern mythology that we can dive into and create the kind of stories that appeal to a new generation of kids," he added.
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
- Korean Film Festival 2023, Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi – until Sunday
- Dubai Esports and Games Festival, Dubai Exhibition Centre – June 21 to 25
- "Min – Ela" exhibition at Dubai Al Safa Art and Design Library – until June 30