Time Frame: Treasures of the sea and the past

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The crew of this Abu Dhabi pearling ship were captured by the Canadian photographer, filmmaker and traveller Alain Saint-Hilaire in 1971.

Other than the year, the image is undated, but we know that it must have been taken during the heat of summer because that is when the annual four-month-long pearling season took place.

The crew here includes elghasa, the men who would descend to the pearl banks in search of oysters and elseyob, their equally vital on-board assistants who would pull the shellfish-laden swimmers up from the seabed using ropes.

A new exhibition of contemporary sculpture, Departure, which opened at Warehouse421 in Mina Zayed on Wednesday, also sheds new light on the lives of pearling crews thanks to a series of old photographs and extracts from letters and poems.

The texts, reflections on absence, separation and loss, speak of the intense emotional cost of the pearling season from the perspective of both the divers and their friends and families, who embarked on their own voyage each summer, into the cooler conditions of Abu Dhabi’s interior.

* Nick Leech

Visit www.warhouse421.ae for more details. The exhibition runs until September 28.