Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950-1999

Time Out Dubai looks at Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950-1999, a book documenting the history of the UAE through old photos

Lest we Forget is an initiative that has been brewing over the past six years. The idea behind it is to document Emirati life and culture through photos submitted by the public.

It all started as a curatorial project at Zayed University back in 2010. Dr Michele Bambling, creative director of Lest We Forget, asked her students to collect snaps of the UAE through the generations.

“At the time there was no publication or exhibition of photographs of daily life during the years following the discovery of oil, the first encounter with modernity and the formation of the UAE,” recalls Dr Bambling.

Her students were reluctant. Sharing personal photos with people outside the family is not customary in the UAE. The breakthrough happened months later when His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s daughter, Sheikha Maryam Bint Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, brought a family album to the class. The album was labelled “Lest We Forget”. It was only then that the students realised the cultural significance of the project and took an interest in it.

Dr Bambling continued to develop the collection of photographs and stories with each successive curatorial class.

The leap from an academic project to an international platform happened when the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation appointed Dr Bambling to curate the National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014. The exhibition, Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the UAE, showed Emirati family photos alongside records of architectural and urban planning. And it grew from there, gathering more interest through exhibitions.

Lest we Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950-1999, the latest showcase, is currently being exhibited at Warehouse421, Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi and is well worth a short drive
to see.
Free. Until June 18. Warehouse421, Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi, hello@warehouse421.ae.

“I found a series of photos my father took on a family trip. On one stop, my uncle drew water from a well with a bucket tied to a rope…” Mariam Abdulla Mohamed Al Thahab (taken 1976).

“I love this photo because of the composition with the group of women and girls in the centre and the boys in the background…” Raisa Obaid Ali Marran Al Mansoori (taken 1985).

“The Police Club was one of the oldest established football clubs in Abu Dhabi. In this photo, my uncle, Aqueel, is holding a trophy after his team won the cup…” Fatima Abdullah Mohammed Sharif Folathi (taken 1972).

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