English cover : Abdulla is wearing a tie and dye linen trousers, a linen shirt with macramé collar and embossed linen coat. Farshad is wearing a shaded flowers organza coat and embossed baguette. All, Fendi. Polo Skeleton watch, sapphire crystal caseback and leather, Piaget; Arabic cover: Abdulla is wearing a tie and dye linen shirt and trousers. All, Fendi. Polo Skeleton watch, sapphire crystal caseback and leather, Piaget. Image Credit: Louis Décamps

In ancient Rome, ‘curatores’ were high-ranking civil servants in charge of putting on gladiator fights. Not to worry, the prizefighters at our magazine come in peace. Instead of tridents, short swords, and nets, we wield cameras, paint-brushes, biting wit, and unique perspectives. Perhaps most importantly, half of our gladiators are women.

Instead of arenas in uproar, we’ve opted for things like art galleries and the soft, late-afternoon light pouring into a Jumeirah Beach villa where we talk to Emirati film director Abdulla Al Kaabi. Like the ‘curatores’ of old, this artist braves controversy and taboos without trepidation, starting by transcending the boundaries of love. After all, didn’t his upcoming film Camel Tears—a tale of the emotional bond between a bedouin and his camel—win a prize from the Sharjah Art Foundation run by Hoor Al Qasimi?

You hold between your hands the first issue of a brand new magazine, The Kurator. Its goal is to uncover some of the duality of our world and discover some of the masterworks within it. That’s precisely what art lover and curator Farshad Mahoutforoush does as he offers us a tour of his private collection. Indeed, this issue takes a deep dive into the unconventional approaches of the UAE’s first generation of conceptual artists—such as Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, a cop-turned-artist—and the rest of the new wave in today’s Emirati art scene. Literature has a place at the table, too, with Omani-born writer Jokha Alharthi, who gained international recognition by becoming the first Arab novelist to win the prestigious Man Booker International Prize in 2019 for her novel Celestial Bodies. Cinema continues to take us globetrotting with Chinese director Bi Gan, whose film Long Day’s Journey Into Night won the Best Emerging Director prize at the Locarno Film Festival 2015, and poignant Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat, a former refugee from an isolated village who never had the chance to see a film in theaters until she was 18. That’s when the rest of her life began, which she has since dedicated to offering audiences a glimpse of her homeland while sidestepping the usual clichés. Lastly, after enjoying a meal of grilled sea bass with spicy tamarind honey, starchitect Mario Botta unlocks the high-security doors of the world’s most glamorous bank vault beneath a temple of finance in Lugano, Italy. Whether it’s penetrating a top-security bank safe or a hermetically sealed mind, ours is an endeavor requiring the courage of gladiators.

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