Dubai: We all have dreams, we all have pain and we all have things that make us happy, and no matter how different we are, we will always be the same.
This is exactly what a group of social innovators wanted to project to the UAE public via a new initiative called ‘Restart the Art’, which paired 43 local-based artists and 43 labourers who created a fusion of art pieces that have been transferred on two labourer’s buses which are currently driving around the city until April 22.
UAE-based Lina Nahhas from Palestine and Jonny Kennaugh from New Zealand established the Sameness Project in 2011 to come up with different initiatives that promote the idea of sameness and produce moments of sameness in the community either online or offline.
Through wide support, they were able to send a message about how humans all share the same dreams and feelings.
“Through Restart the Art initiative, art is being used as a tool to erase the lines that separate two humans, seemingly different in backgrounds, and bring on the message of ‘sameness’,” said Nahhas. “We’re artistically showcasing the combination of two human stories merging into one, and reflecting the potency of humans when they see each other and stand in each other’s shoes.”
In a new twist in their recent initiative, they wanted to turn labourer’s buses into travelling canvases and allow residents to dive into the feelings of both the labourers and artists.
They decided to get 43 construction workers from Al-Futtaim Carillion and Khansaheb to express how they felt by asking them to complete a piece of art inspired by three questions about their dream in life, their greatest pain and their greatest joy, and the same thing was completed by the artists before they collaborated together to creatively come up with an artwork, which showcases both their works together.
Dina Sami, a UAE-based art-director whose collaborative work with another labourer made it to the final, described her experience by saying “We were two different human beings from different parts of this green earth yet sharing sameness to the world”.
Dina said her partner in this project was Rajan N.A. where they both spoke about their own families. “Rajan drew his village for me and the house he wanted to buy for his wife and daughter. His eyes lit up every time he spoke about his family, his expressions were enough for me to understand.”
Dina said Rajan has a positive outlook to the world just like her outlook on life, and the way she spoke about her family he talked about his.
“He grew up differently in this world from how I did but we connected and it was genuine happiness getting to know about his life and making sure I showcase mine to him. We are all people at the end of the day.”
UAE-based architect Khalda Al Jack, whose collaborative art piece with one labourer also made it to the final, said he was very inspired when he heard about the initiative and that he found it a great opportunity to deal with someone, whom he had never met before, on such a personal level.
“For all of us, this experience will forever remind us that we are all human. Our final piece together was a reflection of both our dreams,” said Al Jack. “Taking a moment to give a labourer time out of your day to converse with them, to listen to them and really understand their story, makes a difference in both our lives.”
Al Jack said he worked with his partner, Dhan Raj from Nepal, who drew his house in Nepal because he wanted to go back home. He didn’t struggle with the language barrier when the translator wasn’t there because they used art and sign language as a way to communicate.
“At the end of our meet Dhan Raj said to me, ‘it’s nice having someone to share this with.’ Maybe that’s all we need, a reminder that we’re all human and that we all need somebody to talk to.”
The final four works were chosen based on votes by the public. The workers’ original artwork is being showcased in an exhibition at thejamjar in Al Quoz until April 18 anytime after 4pm.
The buses, with their new artistic exterior, are set to roll up to thejamjar on Friday at 5pm. The special event within the weekend long exhibition will unite the workers and artists to debut their original and final pieces, submitted to the project, bringing the artwork, stories, and the new friendships offline, and back into the real world.