Dubai-based organisation Woman 2 Woman is celebrating International Women's Day on March 8 by organising an art exhibition with the theme based on the strength and resilience of women.
The show, titled Against the Tides 2011, features more than 50 artists of various nationalities and ages, including school and university students and children and adults with special needs. It showcases more than 150 artworks in a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, embroidery, photography, calligraphy, digital art, graphic art, comic art, spiritual art, food art, jewellery, pottery and hologram.
"Woman 2 Woman organises events that give opportunities to women in the UAE to showcase their talent and network with other professionals.
"We launched Against the Tides last year to provide a platform to all UAE residents to exhibit their creativity and also to make art accessible to the general public. We chose this theme and opening day for the second edition of the event because we want to promote awareness about International Women's Day. To further involve the community in this event, we are inviting all visitors to vote for their favourite artworks and we will give prizes to the three most popular pieces," says Zareen Khan, a founding member of the group.
The highlight of the show is its diversity — both in terms of the media and the techniques used, and the artists' individual interpretations of the theme. Czech artist Marketa Halamek has chosen to focus on the inner and outer beauty of women through three paintings — a villager, a demure and sophisticated woman and an introspective portrait of herself.
Martina Dresler's piece conveys the caring nature of a woman. "Art is a powerful tool for healing and I often use art therapy in my work as a life coach to help people find balance in their lives. I have incorporated healing colours in my painting and my aim is to convey the healing energy of a woman and of art," says the German artist.
American artist Dharmangi Bhatia's unique food art emerged from her concerns as a mother. "I was unhappy with the fried foods on the child's menu in restaurants here and decided to develop my own recipes to ensure that my infant daughter has a healthy and varied diet. To encourage her to taste my creations, I tried to make the food look attractive. And that is how my concept of food art developed," she says.
Bhatia's colourful, artistically presented food trays are now popular at birthday parties and children's play dates. She also conducts cookery classes for children, where she tells them about healthy eating in a fun way by making themed food art. "I participated in this show last year and am back this year because I want my message of healthy eating through artistic food to reach more mothers," she says.
University student Lujain Abulfaraj presents the spiritual aspect of a woman's personality through a series of calligraphic works titled Ayat, which captures the scenery one experiences in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
"I am happy to know that people around the world celebrate International Women's Day and appreciate the abilities of women and the role they play in society. And I am glad to participate in this celebration," says the youngster from Saudi Arabia.
Bushra Mohammad Al Faraj is also a university student from Saudi Arabia. Her comic art is light-hearted yet thought-provoking. Her style is inspired by the Japanese manga comics. Her comic strips are based on incidents from her own life, offering interesting insights into the minds of young women today. "I did not know about International Women's Day and I think it is good that this exhibition is focusing on it. This is an opportunity for all of us to appreciate the women in our lives, be it mothers, sisters or friends," she says.
Abhijeet Risbood's embroidered canvases are a tribute to his mother, because she sparked his interest in this art form. "I have always seen my mother doing embroidery. Once, when she could not finish a piece due to ill health, I decided to complete it for her and really enjoyed the process. Since then I have created many embroidered landscapes on canvas. Each piece takes up to 16 hours but I try to find some time every day for my hobby," says the software consultant from India.
Risbood has created three pieces for the show. "It is great that the organisers are open to including all forms of creativity in this exhibition. I am excited about exhibiting my work for the first time and hope it will be appreciated," he says.
Also excited about the show are ten artists from Mawaheb from Beautiful People, an art studio for young adults with special needs.
"Most children with special needs have nothing to do after they graduate from school, which leads to depression and frustration. The idea behind this studio is to use art to help them overcome these feelings and to teach them life skills. This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for their talent to be recognised by the community and they are looking forward to it," says Wemmy de Maaker, special-needs educator from the Netherlands and founder of the studio.
Jyoti Kalsi is a UAE-based art enthusiast.