From the We Didn’t Start the Fire series by Romy Ravindran Image Credit: Supplied

The sixth edition of “Against the Tides”, the annual art exhibition organised by Woman2Woman (w2w), will present more than 60 works by 27 UAE-based artists of different nationalities. In previous editions, the exhibition has focused on themes such as Strength of a Woman, Saving the Planet, Homage to the Emirates and Celebrating Cancer Survivors. “Against the Tides 2016” celebrates the multicultural ethos of the UAE with the theme of Diversity.

The participating artists include Afshan Quraishi, Dagmar Braendle, Sarrah Tambawala, Sree Lakshmi Manoj, Pari Sagar, Dima Albitar, Dima Al Malakeh, Batool Jafri, Humaira Hassan, Parul Parasramka, Shytal Gusani, Jan D’Sa, Samar Kamel, Nissa Riyas, Gihan Fawzi, Ria Sharma, Romy Ravindran, Shiba Khan, Minisha Bhardwaj, Noopur Ahuja, Taline Balian, Yoshita Ahmed, Gwyneth Rasquinha, Reena Dhiman, Elizabeth Bruce, Veena Devagiri and Yukti Chopra.

Diversity in Me by Nissa Riyas

“We chose this theme because as the world becomes a global village, we have to stop and appreciate the incredible variety of nationalities, cultures and minds that form our community. We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and interest from artists, and selected 27 artists on the basis of their interpretation of the theme. Each artwork in this show is like a personal journal expressing what diversity means to the artist. The artworks speak about embracing diversity, displaying tolerance, and living together with unity, peace and love, thus offering an artistic perspective on our current reality. The youngest artist in the show is Sarrah Tambawala, who is just five years old. She impressed us with her amazing talent and ideas. Everyone involved with this show has put their heart and soul into it, and we hope the local community and all art lovers will visit the exhibition and appreciate the work of our local artists,” says Zareen Khan, organiser of the exhibition.

The artists have chosen diverse media, techniques and styles to express their thoughts and feelings about the theme. Scottish artist Elizabeth Bruce is presenting a series of colourful portraits of women. “The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people,” she says.

Pakistani artist Batool Jafri’s paintings are from a series titled “Her True Colours”. “I see the woman as a symbol of tolerance, peace, beauty, mercy and love. Through the abstracted figures in my paintings, I have depicted the diverse roles, personality traits, dreams, aspirations, ambitions, passions and ideologies that exist behind the façade of the veiled woman. Each painting in this series embodies the spirit of the woman portrayed, and the many facets of her personality shine through the patterns, coming together as a beautiful whole,” she says.

Say What by Samar Kamel

Indian artist Sree Lakshmi has also used a colourful palette to explore the theme. “Diversity is the best key to unity — similar to the rainbow, that is complete with all its seven colours. Differences direct people towards harmony,” she says.

In a series of paintings titled “We Didn’t Start the Fire” Romy Ravindran, also from India, looks at the darker aspect of diversity through depictions of the Palestinian conflict symbolically painted on matchboxes.

The simplest and most positive interpretation of the theme comes from the pure and open heart and mind of a child. Pointing to the bridge in her painting, Tambawala says, “This can solve all our problems if we just learn how to connect with others.”

From the Her True Colours series by Batool Jafri

The theme of diversity was further highlighted at the opening night of the exhibition by a live performance, choreographed by Mad About Dance Institute, featuring a variety of dance styles including classical, jazz contemporary and hip hop. w2w also invited the young organisers of the Pull Up Project to speak about their experiences of helping children combat bullying by building their confidence through sports. “We felt it was appropriate to have this talk by youth at the opening of the show because diversity of cultures and backgrounds is often the subtle, underlying cause of bullying, be it at school or on a larger socio-political level,” Khan says. Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

“Against the Tides 2016” will run at Cartoon Art Gallery, Al Quoz, until September 8.