Six Emirate artists reinterpreted photos taken by orphans in Lesotho
Following the opening of huge new gallery The Pavilion in Downtown Dubai, the area now has another new art space, The Ara Gallery, which aims to launch young, aspiring artists from the Arab world (meaning more affordable art available for enthusiasts). Founded by Moza Mohammed Al Abbar, the gallery’s first exhibition showcases a merging of many mediums and two very distinct cultures. Working with Kodak and housing charity Habitat for Humanity, 150 single-use cameras were distributed to foster children and orphans in the small South African kingdom of Lesotho (where 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line). The children were asked to capture what happiness meant to them, resulting in 1,400 images, and now six Emirati artists have worked to interpret these photos.
Curated by Dubai-based Canadian artist Janet Bellotto, the exhibition gave Lesotho’s kids the opportunity to explore their creativity through the lens, while giving Emirati artists the chance to create works that speak to and of the world. It has also given back to Habitat for Humanity and therefore the children – all the money raised in the opening event’s auction goes to the charity, as will 2.5 per cent of all other sales from the exhibition.
‘The Weight’ by Saeed Khalifa, 22
The artist on his work: ‘I wanted to keep the honesty that I found in the children’s images. The photos they took were very real in terms of their situation. My series opens with a very graphic image – in that it’s not easy to look at – and gradually grows softer and more beautiful, proposing the idea of a better future.’ The curator on the work: ‘These are beautifully composed, digitally altered photos. They’re intriguing because of their simplicity and the contrast between the elements and subject.’
‘Our Last Day as Children’ by Alia Rashid Al-Shamsi, 22
The artist on her work: ‘I was inspired by the fact that the children took photos of what makes them happy and the elements that were prevalent in most of the images, such as the sky, the clouds, flowers, and the colourful shirts they wear. I researched more about Lesotho and found that the people traditionally wear a garment called a Basotho blanket. Different patterns signify monumental stages in a person’s life, such as a Motlotlehi blanket (signifying marriage) and the Serope (signifying the birth of a couple’s first child). I selected the patterns, coloured them and wove them together, laying them over the children’s photos, illustrating life’s different paths and bittersweet intersections.’ The curator on the work: ‘Her research had her develop a series of works based on the patterns of the Basotho blanket. She had a good sense of composition in creating her own patterns – soft and balanced. A great body of work for her first exhibition.’
‘Mother’ by Khawla Al Marri, 27
The artist on her work: ‘The idea in this work is to present motherhood, because this is what the children are missing in their lives (the children that took part in the project were all living in orphanages or foster homes). Apparently, about 80 per cent of the pictures taken by the children were of their carer, and I wanted to explore that.’ The curator on the work: ‘She has a good sense of colour; her strokes are bold and allude to the skies of Van Gogh and the cubist faces of Picasso.’
The lowdown Artist: Saeed Khalifa, Alia Al-Shamsi, Maryam Al Qassimi, Khawla Al Marri, Maryam Al Sayegh and Saeed Al Madani From: UAE Exhibition: ‘Through the Eyes of Africa’s Children’ at the Ara Gallery, Burj Plaza until May 21 (04 454 2784) Price range of works: Dhs2,000-Dhs12,000