DUBAI The hatheera or winter majlis is an age-old tradition in Bedouin communities. People would get together on the sand dunes and spend the cold winter evenings sitting around a fire, reciting poetry, playing music, drinking kahwa, bonding, mingling and interacting with each other. Artist and curator Hind Demaithan, designer Jawaher Al Khayyal and photographer Ola Allouz have come together to recreate that warmth and camaraderie in a contemporary version of the hatheera. In collaboration with Hamzat Al Wasl — a creative community collective — the three Emirati artists have designed an installation at the Total Arts Gallery that gives visitors a feel of the traditional hatheera.

The title of the installation, 0.0625mm in Diameter, refers to the size of a grain of sand. Every element in the installation is inspired by the traditional hatheera such as the piles of sand scattered around the space and the kahwa and dates served to visitors. Al Khayyal has designed a steel fence that references the long thin stalks of Markh wood (Leptadenia pyrotechnica) stuck in the sand to demarcate the majlis, and sand dune-like seating made from concrete. The space is decorated with photographs taken by Allouz.

“I spent time with people who have experienced the traditional hatheera to create images that convey the emotions and feelings associated with it,” she says. Every evening, the space is activated by musicians playing traditional Arabian instruments such as the Oud and Rababih, poetry sessions, interaction with a falcon, private photo shoots conducted by Allouz, and other events. All this is filmed and projected on screens in real time through a video installation by Demaithan.

Explaining her curatorial concept, Demaithan says, “Recently, I have been spending a lot of time in the desert, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and I am fascinated with the idea of getting together in this kind of setting. There were so many questions in my mind such as why do people gather around in a semicircle or in close proximity to chat; how many ways can people sit together in a circle; what are the topics discussed; what are the age groups; and are they relatives, friends or strangers. I noticed that the hatheera setting is so similar to our creative gatherings and family get-togethers and wanted to adapt it for the city. We took inspiration from the Markh’s form and purpose, the reflections on the sand as sunlight weaves through its structure, and the grains of sand enfolding you as you sit and embrace nature. We want to invite everybody to come and be part of our hatheera.”

The installation is open for visitors at Total Arts Gallery at The Courtyard, Al Quoz until December 5.

Jyoti Kalsi is a Dubai-based arts enthusiast.