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Tashkeel looks back over the last 10 years

The Dubai-based art hub was established in 2008 to facilitate creative experimentation and cross-cultural dialogue in the UAE

  • Maitha Demithan, Gazelle, 2018. Scanography digital printImage Credit: Supplied
  • Azza Al Qubaisi. Foundation of Love. 2018. Steel with inlaid gold wireImage Credit:
  • Manal Al Dowayan, Dearest Women, 2018. Installation, wood, copper, calcified sand, natural linen. Dimensions vImage Credit:
Gulf News

Tashkeel is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a show titled 10 Years Later presenting new commissioned works by 16 leading artists and designers who have been associated with it as members, workshop instructors, artists-in-residence or exhibition participants.

The Dubai-based art organisation was established in 2008 by Lateefa Bint Maktoum with the aim of facilitating art and design practice, creative experimentation and cross-cultural dialogue in the UAE. It supports the UAE’s creative community through studio facilities, artists’ residencies, international fellowships, exhibitions, talks and workshops that bring art and culture to a wider audience and engage the local community.

“This exhibition is a reflection of how it all began. It brings together just a few of the many artists associated with Tashkeel. They possess artistic vision and passion and their works enrich our daily lives, sharing stories from different perspectives and in various mediums. I feel fortunate to be able to watch artists grow, from taking their tentative first steps, experimenting and exploring in the studios to completing formidable bodies of work and attaining international recognition. Tashkeel will always be their home, a place to return to and work from, a place that is familiar but will always challenge them to do better,” she says.

Through its Tanween programme, Tashkeel supports UAE-based designers in developing, showcasing and selling new UAE inspired products, and its one-year Critical Practice Programme mentors, trains and encourages visual artists to experiment and develop their work and culminates in a solo exhibition. Tashkeel has also launched MakeWorks UAE, an online platform that connects artists and designers with fabricators in the UAE.

Tashkeel’s anniversary show features Emirati and UAE based artists of various nationalities whose careers Tashkeel has helped to shape and who in turn have contributed to its growth. Their artworks reflect the diversity of their practices and of the facilities available at Tashkeel. They include photography, sculpture, videos, calligraphy, street art and installations, and will form the basis of the Tashkeel Art Collection, a new permanent resource for the organisation.

Azza Al Qubaisi, known as the UAE’s first Emirati jewellery designer has created a steel sculpture with a touch of gold that expresses her love for the everchanging dunes in the desert, the date palm and Arabic letters. American-Lebanese designer Zuleika Penniman has crafted a delicate tree from silver and copper that references the Bedouin tradition of the jewellery in a bride’s dowry being melted and remade. “The ornaments combine transience and continued existence because although their look keeps changing, the original silver is preserved through generations. My tree is an allegory for this duality and eternal cycle of life,” she says.

French Tunisian street artist el Seed came to Dubai for a one-year residency at Tashkeel and decided to move here. The three-dimensional calligraffiti sculpture he has created for this show is in a style he developed during the residency. It features the Arabic word for ‘balance’ subtly referencing his cross-cultural identity and practice.

Ruben Sanchez, a graffiti artist from Spain also came to Dubai for a residency at Tashkeel and used the opportunity to develop a studio practice and take his work in a new direction. “During my residency I experimented with materials such as reclaimed wood, traffic signs, resin and cardboard. My work for this show, Architectural Language, is a continuation of that exploration and deals with themes of connectivity, coexistence and the unknown inner world,” he says.

UAE-based British urban artist myneandyours is showing a thought provoking painting on wood titled, The Fox’s Right (The Fox is Right), featuring his signature clouds; and Iraqi artists Wissam Shawqat and Majid Alyousef are presenting contemporary calligraphic works. Shawqat’s painting is in his ‘calligafrom’ style, first seen in an exhibition at Tashkeel in 2015. Alyousef’s work, Fifty Shapes of Colours, explores the beauty of the Arabic script through deconstruction of the letters.

Emirati artist Nasir Nasrallah’s installation, The Atlas of Imaginary Places, is the latest work from his Stories Vending Machine series, the first of which was commissioned by Tashkeel in 2013 for Art Dubai. The new work is a vending machine that delivers envelopes containing short illustrated stories by the artist about fictional locations.

In Emirati Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi’s collages, titled This is Personal found images emerging from envelopes speak about the emotions contained in letters and the lost art of communicating through hand-written letters. Hind Bin Demaithan’s interactive installation, Always Keep the Negatives Clean, also dwells on memories of the past and the emotions they evoke.

Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan has used wood, copper, linen and calcified sand to create a soulful installation titled, Dearest Women. “This is an attempt to construct what it means to be a woman in the imagined future, while reconciling with the ever-present past,” she says. Briton Mark Pilkington, who teaches photography at The American University of Sharjah, is showing a series of photographs that are about the changing landscape of the UAE and his own relationship with it.

Iranian artist Afshan Daneshvar’s meditative work features thousands of tiny white origami boats pasted on canvas, each one representing human presence floating in the sea of life; and Palestinian Areej Kaoud’s series of silent emergency LED signs flashing calming phrases she has heard from her mother explore our psychological preparation for and reaction to emergencies.

Emirati artists Maitha Demithan and Ammar Al Attar’s work focuses on animals. Demithan has used scanography to create a portrait of a woman dressed in traditional Emirati attire holding a gazelle in her arms to explore the relationship between animals and human beings. Al Attar’s black and white analogue photographs document auctions of goats, camels, fish and birds in the UAE. “I learnt the whole process of dark room printing at Tashkeel, so this work references the importance of Tashkeel in my photography career. This organisation is and will always be a major educational resource for artists of all disciplines,” Al Attar says.

Lisa Ball-Lechgar, Deputy Director of Tashkeel, says, “For the last decade, Tashkeel has enabled hundreds of artists and designers to experiment, innovate, collaborate and further their practice as well as their careers in the cultural industries. Their commitment, ambition and skills have similarly enabled Tashkeel to flourish, ensuring its range of programmes and initiatives remain relevant and impactful. This exhibition is a fitting way to mark this milestone in our history as we look back over the last 10 years and look forward to the next decade. It is the story of Tashkeel as well as that of the gifted practitioners with whom it has shared its journey.”

The exhibition is accompanied by tours, talks, photo walks by the artists and workshops on topics such as making moulds for jewellery with the ancient technique of casting with Cuttlefish bone, Calligraphy, and street art. Tahskeel has also published a book titled Reference Point: A History of Tashkeel and UAE Art that documents the evolution of Tashkeel and the development of the UAE’s art scene since 2008 through conversations with Lateefa Bint Maktoum and essays by prominent artists, art historians and cultural commentators from the region.

10 Years Later will run at Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba, until April 26. For more information about workshops, visit


Celebrating analogue photography

Tashkeel’s space in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is hosting an exhibition of photographs titled Textures of the Creek. The show marks the culmination of a year-long project by members of Analogue Photography in the UAE, a Dubai-based community collective for those interested in all formats of analogue photography. The black and white images of the architecture, people, landscape and scenes from everyday life around the creek in Deira and Bur Dubai capture the essence of Khor Dubai.

“During the last year our membership has grown to over 700, indicating the growing popularity of analogue photography. Our members belong to different nationalities and come from all walks of life and we are excited to present the group’s very first exhibition. We used Tashkeel’s facilities in Nad Al Sheba to run darkroom sessions that enabled most of our members to make high quality silver gelatin prints for the first time and we have selected 14 of the most evocative images for the show,” Christopher Osborne, a founder of the group says.

Textures of the Creek will run at Tashkeel, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood until April 26.