This Ramadan, Dubai-based artists with special needs got a wonderful window of opportunity to showcase their talent through a unique collaboration between Bloomingdale’s Dubai and Mawaheb from Beautiful People, an art studio for adults with special needs. The artists worked closely with the Al Tayer Group’s Creative Services team to conceptualise and create a Ramadan-inspired window display for the Bloomingdale’s store in The Dubai Mall.
Matteo Magnanini, head of creative services for Al Tayer Group, says, “Given our commitment to the local community through various CSR initiatives, the aim of collaborating with Mawaheb on this special project was to offer the artists a 360° approach to showcase their talents through a joint initiative. Working in a process-led environment, each artist has experienced all the stages of a window design process from its inception as sketch on paper to the actual unveiling.”
To ensure that all the artists, who come from different countries and cultures, had a good understanding of Ramadan, Mawaheb began the project by requesting the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to give them a talk about the holy month. “We wanted our artworks to convey the true spirit and essence of the holy month, but from the perspective of the artists. After individual contemplation and group discussions we chose to work with themes such as introspection, respect for others and the art of giving,” Gulshan Kavarana, art teacher at Mawaheb, says.
In One Vase We Bloom Together carries the message of coexistence
The artists found simple and eloquent ways to interpret their ideas visually. For instance, in a painting titled “In One Vase We Bloom Together”, they created a beautiful bouquet in a vase, with each artist painting the national flower of their country, to convey the message that a community blooms when people from different backgrounds are able to coexist and live together peacefully.
For a window based on the theme of giving, the artists took inspiration from the volunteers at Mawaheb. “The volunteers, who generously give us their time, energy and skills, have taught us that giving is not just about buying gifts for others; it is about giving the best of ourselves and bringing out the best in the world around us. We wanted to convey the message that the best gift you can give to your loved ones is your love, respect, time, patience and acceptance,” artist James Casaki says.
Being accepted by society for who they are is a theme very close to the heart of these artists. They have illustrated this with “Say Yes to All”, a work featuring images of a little girl offering a heart-shaped balloon to a boy in a wheelchair, and hand-written messages asking people not to look down upon those who are differently abled, to respect the differences that exist between people, to bring down walls between human beings with a hug and a smile, and to lift yourself by lifting others.
Another display, titled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”, explores the idea of Ramadan being a month of reflection and striving to be better by using the symbolism of a mirror; and one window is dedicated to the theme “Put the Art in Earth” with visuals and messages that speak about the power of art to inspire and unite people, and to make the world a brighter and more beautiful place.
Mawaheb artist Abdullah Lutfi is happy to see two windows decorated with his drawings titled “Love, Pray, Eat”. The moving, honest drawings portray the young Emirati’s simple daily routine as he joins his family and community in observing Ramadan.
“This project was a great learning experience for our artists. Al Tayer’s creative team involved them in every aspect of the process, from the planning to the execution of the concepts. In the course of their research, our artists also learnt a lot about each other’s countries and cultures. The unveiling of the windows at the start of Ramadan was a moment of joy and pride for our artists, their families, and all of us at Mawaheb; and it was exciting to see our art not only in the windows, but also on items such as greeting cards, lamps and wrapping paper,” Kavarana says.
Artist Sharan Anil says, “It seemed like such a daunting task when we began, but the final result is unbelievable. It is such a privilege to be part of this fantastic project and to share the message of the special needs community with everyone.”
Wemmy de Maaker, founder and managing director of Mawaheb, says that the project has reaffirmed her belief in using art as a tool for teaching life skills, and integrating people with special needs into society.
“Working on a project such as this has taught the artists to focus, to see things through, to step out of their comfort zone, learn from their mistakes, work as a team, communicate with others, and have confidence in themselves. These skills are as important as academic skills, and our mission at Mawaheb is to use art to develop these skills,” she says.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.
Mawaheb’s Ramadan-themed windows at Bloomingdale’s Dubai in The Dubai Mall will remain on display through Eid Al Fitr.