Birds of the UAE celebrated in Yas Island murals

Fathima Mohiuddin, the artist known as Fatspatrol, has covered seven buildings in Abu Dhabi with her work

Birds in flight have a way of captivating us land-based lot. That is certainly the case for Fathima Mohiuddin, an artist and muralist who has been capturing the winged creatures in her paintings since 2015.

For her latest commissioned project, For the Love of Birds, Mohiuddin, who goes by the artist name Fatspatrol, has covered the facades of seven buildings on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi with images of birds found in the UAE.

It is her largest project to date, with the mural measuring 8,630 square metres. To create a cohesive work, Mohiuddin portrayed her subjects against a striking continuous blue backdrop of oases and changing skies.

Announcing the project on social media, she writes that birds as an artistic theme have come to symbolise “migration, flight, freedom, vulnerability and living without borders”, ideas that she says “resonated with me in a tough time in my life” and enabled her to reach “a more resilient place today”.

Fatspatrol's mural covers an area of 8,630 square metres, spread across seven buildings on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

For the Love of Birds took more than three months to complete with the help of an assistant, Marvelous Morph.

Mohiuddin says she does not recall seeing many types of birds growing up in the UAE, but learnt through the project that several species settle and thrive in the region.

She also discovered some bird populations are threatened by habitat loss, including the collared kingfisher, which has blue wings and a white breast, and is included in an ongoing preservation programme in Kalba, Sharjah.

The collared kingfisher is part of a preservation programme in Kalba, Sharjah. Victor Besa / The National

“I used this project as an opportunity to learn more about eco-diversity and conservation efforts around the birds,” she says. The artist uses the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi as one of her learning resources.

Other endangered birds portrayed in her project are the Egyptian vulture, a small population of which can be found in Jebel Hafeet, on the border between the UAE and Oman, and the saker falcon, a breed that spends its winters in the Arabian Peninsula.

The hoopoe, left, and the African sacred ibis are among the birds depicted in Fatspatrol's large-scale mural on Yas Island. Victor Besa / The National

Mohiuddin has also depicted the recognisable and much-loved hoopoe with its crown of feathers and striped wings, and the houbara bustard, whose dwindling populations are being increased by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, established in 1977 by UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The majestic greater flamingo also makes an appearance, traipsing across Al Wathba wetland reserve in Abu Dhabi, their only regular breeding site in the Gulf.

The greater flamingo can be found at Al Wathba wetland reserve in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

There is also the partridge, several varieties of which live in the UAE, African sacred ibis, heron, laughing doves, crab plover and the white-eared bulbul.

The white-eared bulbul is found across south-western Asia, from India to the Arabian Peninsula. Victor Besa / The National

“All together they make up this wonderful theatre of diversity. Each character strutting on to stage, showing off its features, telling its story, dancing their dance,” Mohiuddin says of her subjects.

“I thought about how intrigued we are by diversity and difference in the natural world, and how intolerant we can be of curious difference and diversity amongst humans.”

Updated: March 18, 2022, 6:53 PM