Emirati artists in Dubai

Two must-see exhibitions at Dubai's Art Week


This week, visiting galleries, artists and curators will be the glowing stars at Art Week’s premiere cultural event Art Dubai, running from Wednesday March 21 to Sunday March 25. While there are plenty of regional and Dubai-based artists in the limelight this year, amid the glitz and glamour, it’s easy to forget about Dubai’s emerging Emirati talent. There are a number of exhibitions running throughout Art Week and into the next month that feature local artists as well as homegrown curators. Here, we round up two exhibitions that have either been curated by an Emirati or feature the works of Emirati artists. Read on to find out more about the exhibitions and why you should get behind local talent.

‘Abaya’ at The Ara Gallery until Friday April 20
This show features the specially-made works of six up-and-coming female Emirati artists, each of which were inspired by the abaya. The mixed-media exhibition reveals the artist’s own experience and interpretation of the cloaked garment. We chat to two of the artists to find out more.

Alia Hussain Lootah, 24, Emirati, artist

Title of work: ‘Ebony (2)’
Why did you decide to pursue art?
I’ve been passionate about art since I was a child. But when I finished university everything simply stopped: no more research papers due, no more waking up at 6am, and most of all, no more purpose. That was the tipping point for me and that’s where I found my true calling.

What does this piece represent?
Through the years there have been many theories, myths and oldwives’ tales about the origin of the black abaya. My piece depicts one of those myths that unravel the mystery behind the garment. The poem by Rabee bin Emar, also known as Mskeen Eldurami, is said to be one of the catalysts for the growing popularity of the usage of the colour black in veils and abayas.

What are your goals?
I would like to explore mixed media. This piece consists of fabric, transparent acrylic and acrylic paint. I wish one day I’ll be given the opportunity to showcase my work at Art Dubai.

Shamma Al Amri, 26, Emirati, artist

Title of work: ‘A Dying Art’

What does this piece represent?
The painting places a woman in a landscape and references photographic works by Western photographers documenting the region in the past. It is not very long ago that the abaya stood at the core of an Emirati woman’s identity. Today, as a young Emirati female, I see an avant-garde approach to this cultural facet as the role, appearance and value of this cultural emblem has shifted and drastically evolved.

What are your goals?
I am currently completing a degree and I’m hoping to continue my participation in art shows and become a key player in the contemporary Middle Eastern art scene. 

‘To The Moon’ at The XVA Annex Bastakiya, until Monday April 30
Thirteen artists make up this diverse group exhibition curated by 23-year-old Emirati artist Maitha Bin Demithan. Entitled ‘To The Moon’, the show explores the moon as a shared fact of life that spans many cultures. It features a range of mixed media works including a video installation. Here’s what the curator had to say.

Maitha Bin Demitham, 23, Emirati, curator

Have you been involved with Art Dubai in the past?
My work first appeared at Art Dubai in 2009 as part of the HH Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award, when I won the first prize for Multi Media.

Why do you think it is important to support emerging local talent?
I feel it is important to showcase art but also, more importantly, to critique it. Feedback is what will keep local talent going.

What are your goals?

‘To The Moon’ has been my first curated show. As an artist I see myself constantly creating and I hope to have my first solo show soon.

How would you like to see Emirati art develop in the future?
I feel that the work created in the Emirates is progressing slowly. When compared to international art, including my own work, it needs to be stronger – both conceptually and technique-wise. Emirati artists should be constantly reading and visiting museums to improve their work – walls are hung with free advice.

The lowdown

Exhibitions: ‘Abaya’ until April 20 at The Ara Gallery, Burj Plaza, Downtown Dubai (04 454 2784). ‘To The Moon’ until April 30 at XVA Gallery, Bastakiya (04 353 5383).

Artists include: Alia Hussain Lootah, Shamma Al Amri and Omar Mohd Mattar Al Arti.

Price range of works: Dhs5,000 to Dhs20,000 (‘Abaya’); Dhs2,000 to Dhs20,000 (‘To The Moon’).

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