The spotlight is on UAE-based artists with determination at two exhibitions running in Dubai during Ramadan. These include Iraqi artist Zaid Jafar’s debut solo show hosted by 1x1 Gallery and a group show by 12 young photographers at the Mall of the Emirates. While showcasing the talent of these young emerging artists, the exhibitions also facilitate their engagement with the local community — giving viewers the opportunity to learn about their concerns regarding local and global issues and their hopes and dreams for themselves and the world they live in.
Jafar in an artist from Mawaheb from Beautiful People, an art studio for the determined ones. His show, Love & War, features abstract expressionist paintings that convey his pain at the violence and madness happening all around the world. “There cannot be peace in a world where religions that teach us to love and care for one another are being transformed into weapons of war and hate. But I hope that human beings will find a way to heal the suffering and find lasting peace in the future,” he says.
The artist has painted scenes of conflict and human suffering that he has seen in the news and have troubled him. These include a gory scene of a playground splattered with blood in Blood on the Grass, coffins with children painted inside a frame dripping with blood in Framed Coffin, and a wailing mother waiting with outstretched arms for a lost child in War Mother. Other works such as Bullet Rain and War Winds also depict the horrors of war. Paintings such as Warped Brain, Root of All Evil and Negotiations convey Jafar’s desire to find answers about the origin of these conflicts.
“I do not believe that our world was made for hatred and pain. So why is there blood everywhere, even on the beautiful grass in the playground where children should be playing happily, and why does a mother search in vain for a part of herself that she has lost forever. I have been thinking about why we are living in a world where raindrops have turned into bullets and pain and misery travel like the wind, and I have realised that the ugliness begins in the warped brains of the leaders of terrorist organisations and in the mistakes and bad decisions made by political leaders,” Jafar says.
The artist however refuses to be dejected by the darkness and discord and dares to dream of a better future. In paintings such as Flower Power and Back to Colour he has depicted the bright, peaceful and colourful future world of his imagination. And in a painting titled, Survivor, Jafar has also conjured a superhero who will teach people not to fight and will solve their problems.
“Instead of fighting with each other people should come together to fight for a better future for all. We should all learn to appreciate each other, embrace our differences, and live harmoniously so that we can create a world where children can be safe and a world that is filled with positivity and peace,” he says.
The exhibition at the Mall of the Emirates is part of the mall’s Art from the Heart initiative to celebrate the Year of Zayed and the month of Ramadan. It portrays the holy month through the eyes of 12 young UAE -based photographers of determination. The budding photographers were invited to spend time in the mall and capture distinctive elements of the architecture of the mall and its special Ramadan décor. Their evocative photographs indicate their refreshing perspective of their surroundings, keen eye for detail, and the verve, joy and open mind with which they approached their subject.
The show has been organised in collaboration with the Special Photographers Programme by Asateer Events, founded by Dubai resident Mohamed Younes, who is a special needs educator and photographer from Egypt. The organisation offers employment opportunities to people of determination and organises creative activities for them.
It launched the Special Photographers Programme in 2012 for people of determination who had an interest in photography. The programme provides them with training that is tailored to their abilities and organises photography walks, excursions and exhibitions to improve their skills and showcase their work. Artists from this programme regularly participate in photography shows and competitions and have won awards for their work.
The programme was launched in 2012 to highlight and develop the photography skills of people of determination. It provides them with training that is tailored to their abilities, arranges photography walks and excursions to a variety of locations to help them hone their skills, organises exhibitions to showcase their work, and collaborates with other institutions to get them assignments for covering events.
“Our programme is designed to equip people of determination who are interested in photography with the right tools to enable them to pursue a career in this field and support themselves financially in the future. We began with four photographers and now have 15 participants, aged between 18 to 25 years. They all have different styles and interests ranging from capturing the beauty of nature or local architecture to human moments. This exhibition encouraged them to be creative with the theme of Ramadan and has helped them to develop their skills. It offers them a wonderful opportunity to showcase their talent to a large audience and get the exposure they need to build a sustainable career in photography,” Younes says.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.
Love & War will run at 1x1 Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, until June 10; Art From the Heart will be on display in the Luxury Wing on Level 1 at Mall of the Emirates until June 16.