Fourteen UAE-based artists, including poets, musicians, writers and theatre persons, have been chosen by the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi for its inaugural year-long artist development initiative. Titled Numoo, the program aims to encourage the growth of performing artists in the country, and contribute to the development of the nation’s arts ecosystem.
Drawn from diverse backgrounds, artistic experiences and nationalities, the artists will get an opportunity to hone their skills while being exposed to professionals.
"It’s our hope that the artists... will strengthen their ability to build sustainable careers in the UAE, as well as increasing UAE-based artists’ capacity to bring their work to international stages," says Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director at The Arts Center.
The initiative, supported by a grant from the US Mission to the UAE, offers artists guidance by The Arts Center staff, invited international arts professionals, and the chance to work with one another. They will also complete working sessions and independent projects based on their chosen areas of interest.
Scheduled to kick off from Fall 2021 to summer 2022, the program coincides with the UAE’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the future orientation of Expo 2020 and The Art Centre’s seventh season theme Now and Into the Future.
The artists, selected through a mix of nominations and an open call application followed by a collaborative evaluation process, will get an insight into, among others, defining and communicating their artistic vision; project management and budgeting; rights, royalties, and intellectual property and working with technical production and touring.
Meet the 14 artists
Jaysus Zain: Originally from Sudan, Jaysus is an award-winning artist and has performed at the Bowery Poetry Club and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. An educator, Jaysus uses words as a medium for illustrating dreams, weaving visions and telling stories. Fusing poetry, spoken word, and hip hop, he creates multiple characters that are all intricately raw and beautiful. Awarded Artist of the Year in 2016 and crowned Dubai Poetry Slam Champion twice. he has performed at the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi and the countdown event to Expo 2020.
Aya Afaneh: An Arab-American artist, writer and performer based in Abu Dhabi, Aya has a double major in art and art history and theatre, with a minor in creative writing. Her performances deal with duration, the absence of time, and connecting to a higher self. Currently writing a psychological thriller novel, she is also devising a performance piece about a Palestinian teenager in the diaspora who finds a way to connect with his homeland using his grandmother’s recipes.
Carlos Alejandro Páez González: Starting his journey into the arts with a theatre workshop at the age of 13 in Venezuela, Carlos who graduated with a major in theatre and a minor in game design, and his focus throughout his university years was the intersection between the two disciplines. He has created several independent pieces seeking to translate game design concepts into the live language of theatre. González will lead a series of workshops introducing the cohort to the value of viewing games as art and making games that have an impactful message.
Dorian Paul Rogers: A performance poet and two-time slam champion, hip hop artist, educator, author and events curator, Dorian has been a featured speaker at over 40 universities and has led workshops across the world. As an arts curator he has collaborated with The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Warehouse421, The US Mission to the UAE, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Ethan David Lee: A writer, director, producer, and theatre-maker, based in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, Ethan is co-creative director of the cross-border performing arts company, Exit 11. His art has been heavily influenced by The Civilians’ artist director Steve Cosson and Indian writer-director Abhishek Majumdar. It often takes the form of Theatre of the Real, using verbatim interviews, historical documents, academic sources, and other docu-theatre techniques to represent true events on stage. He is currently serving the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival as the associate manager for audience engagement and external relations.
Jerome Deligero: A Dubai-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Jerome specialises in the guitar. Starting his professional music career playing for various indie bands such as The Deer Hum and Monteath, recording both their debut albums, he has also worked as a musician for a range of UAE artists and bands.
Jomel Reyes: With a background of stage shows and production management in the Philippines, Jomel is passionate about creative design and conceptualisation, video editing, and performance curation. He is co-founder of Performatibo Manila, a Philippine-based theatre and performance group that seeks to utilise digital space for Philippine art, culture, and history through online performances and talks, and co-founder of +63Kolektib, the first all-Filipino UAE-based theatre group.
Juan Paul Gonzales: Juan has worked with the Dulaang UP and Teatro Tomasino university theatres, and professional theatre companies, including PETA Theatre in the Philippines. Committed to creating work that narrates the lives of Filipino migrants, he believes theatre has the power to initiate conversations, empower, and drive change in different forms.
Khayal: A 20-year-old Emirati singer/songwriter and music producer, Khayal’s work crosses multiple genres. Khayal sees his art as the fictional, dramatic retelling of his experiences, and a space for him to be vulnerable and express his thoughts and emotions in the most theatrical, dramatic, colourful way possible.
Lama Mosallem: Lama translates real-life experiences through her songwriting and guitar playing. In both English and Arabic, she writes and sings about mental health, social issues, heartbreak, love, and family. She sees her music as art projects. As a 24-year-old Egyptian woman, her mission is to break down the labels and stereotypes that society has placed on her and others.
Rashed Qurwash: Rashed uses photography, video, and sculpture to emphasise themes of repetition, rhythm, and stillness. An alumnus of the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship Cohort 6 (SEAF) Rashed currently works as a senior coordinator at SEAF.
Safiya Bin AlSheikh Ali: An avid singer, actor and dancer who studied Musical Theatre at Canterbury College and graduated from the University of Kent with a degree in Drama and Comparative Literature, Safiya shas worked as an entertainment executive at Global Village. Her work there includes hosting theatre shows, working as a stage manager in production, and assisting as costumed characters. An avid songwriter she taught herself how to play the ukulele. She has brought those two skills together to create a steady stream of original music.
Smrithi Nair: A recent graduate of NYU Abu Dhabi, Smrithi is an actor trained in Practical Aesthetics, in addition to training with Patrick Page in New York, working with the Bhasha Centre for the Performing Arts in Bangalore, The Humboldt Forum curators in Berlin, and The Atlantic Theatre Company in New York. Her work blurs the lines between theatre, sound, and video art, and she is influenced by Disability Studies, creating pieces that seek to disrupt structures that are held a little too closely. She has conducted sessions with students, guiding them through voice and text work, movement, and moment-to-moment work, and exploring theatre as a form of an experiment.
Subin Thompson: Hailing from Kerala, India, Subin is a classically trained pianist who has worked as a sound engineer at the Royal Opera House Muscat, and is presently at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. Working closely with artists from across the globe has influenced his own music composition, with his sonic signature encompassing traditions such as Indian ragas, folk music, jazz, and western harmony. He composed music for the award-winning short film Dream Catchers and has performed and composed music for television networks in India. In 2016 he released the album Spectra in collaboration with a host of international musicians. His background as an immersive sound designer enables him to use technology to evoke emotional responses from the listener.