Art exhibition charts beauty and struggle of life

The theme of strong women runs through a display that includes photography and fabrics as well as digital and graphic art and sculpture.

Dubai, March 8, 2011 - Marketa Halamek, standing in front of her painting titled 'Matured Beauty'  is one of 103 artists on display in the art show 'Against The Tides' put on by Woman 2 Woman with more than 103 artists participating and 400 pieces of paintings, drawings and photographs to commemorate International Women's Day on display in Dubai March 8, 2011. (Jeff Topping/The National)

DUBAI // Students, artists, teachers and children with special needs are displaying their art in celebration of Women's Day at an exhibition showcasing home-grown talent.

A vivid portrait of a woman in a hijab climbing a set of winding stairs and haunting black-and-white sketches in which Quranic verses in calligraphy depict the shape of crowds near a minaret are just two of the works at the five-day Against the Tides exhibition, which opened at Dubai's Festival City yesterday.

"This gives us a platform to show our work. It's a true celebration," said Indu Govindan, an 18-year-old female student-artist who was born in Dubai. "This exhibition shows art has no boundaries."

The theme of strong women runs through a display that includes photography and fabrics as well as digital and graphic art and sculpture. Capturing beauty while cutting across generational and cultural divides was the challenge for many exhibitors.

"It's a tribute to women who, in this part of the world and even in Europe, work much harder and still earn less," said Marketa Halamek, an artist from the Czech Republic who made Dubai her home eight years ago. "I don't care about a woman's age. All women are beautiful and full of grace to me," she added.

The exhibition, which runs until March 12 at the Dubai Festival City Festival Centre, also allows the public to select the three most popular artists. The winners will receive trophies and gifts.

"We want art to be accessible so we'd like people to judge the art," said Zareen Khan, a founding partner of Woman2Woman, which organised the event.

"We wanted something special to commemorate Women's Day and encourage empowerment because so many women are still struggling."

Children from several Dubai schools and special needs centres were invited to participate in the exhibition.

Their contributions included bright paintings of sunflowers and horses with flowing blue manes, which shared space with larger-than-life portraits painted by their teachers and established artists.

"When you put the work of these kids side-by-side with their teachers you cannot tell one from the other," Ms Khan said. "We like to create a friendly atmosphere for art to flourish in."

For many artists, the exhibition is a means to creating awareness about women's rights.

Art conveys an artist's opinion about life, said Noopur Ahuja, a human resources manager for an international company for 18 years before she turned to art as a full-time occupation.

"There is so much dissimilarity because in some places women stand shoulder to shoulder with men and in others they do not have the right to chose a mate or get out of an abusive relationship," Mrs Ahuja said. "With art we can create an awareness to shape a better world and show our children where we were and where we can be."