ACs in sharjah pic by Hussain Al Moosawi on show at 50 Years of Cool in Abu Dhabi
A photo by Hussain Al Moosawi of ACs in Sharjah at the show Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi is playing host to the first visual arts exhibit that maps out the cultural impact of air-conditioners in the UAE during its first 50 years as a nation.

Zaki Nusseibeh, cultural advisor to the UAE President and chancellor of UAE University, recently officially inaugurated the exhibition, which takes a closer look at the development of cooling approaches in the country. Akio Isomata, Ambassador of Japan to the UAE, was also present at the opening.

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Dignitaries during the official launch of the event Image Credit: Supplied

The show, titled ‘50 Years of Cool’, explores the advent of air conditioning through the lens of four artists based in the UAE. Organised by Taqeef and O General, some of the earliest firms to offer cooling systems in the desert environment, the exhibition is hosted at MiZa, an emerging creative district located in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s historical Mina Zayed.

The show is welcoming visitors until March 9 between 10am and 10pm. Entry is free for all visitors.

“Art and culture play a vital role in expressing and reinforcing the values of kindness, tolerance, understanding and a sense of a shared struggle. Over the past 50 years, the UAE has accomplished many remarkable feats, and collaborations such as the one we are celebrating [at the show] between Japan and the UAE have played a pivotal role in this. Collaboration makes both societies and individuals stronger, and there is a wealth of knowledge that can be gained from one another,” Nusseibeh said.

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With works in photography, moving images, and annotated portraits, the exhibit invites viewers to reflect on air conditioning’s transformational effects on quality of life, and beyond that, into the fabric of the urban landscape. This evolution in air conditioning moves on a conversational current with the Gulf’s textured migrant histories and economic development, which had laid the groundwork for the UAE’s journey of industrialisation.

One of the photos of an AC in Musaffah in Abu Dhabi by Hussain Al Moosawi on exhibit Image Credit: Supplied

“In 1973 Taqeef collaborated with Fujitsu General to bring air-conditioning to the country. The technology, the only one of its kind at the time, transformed the way homes and offices were built and subsequently, the way people lived. This exhibition extends a fascinating and thought-provoking re-framing of the role of air conditioning as a catalyst to a significant paradigm shift in the country, its people, and their daily lives. It takes visitors on a nostalgic, yet captivating voyage of the humble air conditioner’s role - both past and present in the UAE,” said Tariq Al Ghussein, Taqeef’s CEO.

In frame

Featured works include Hussain Al Moosawi’s grid of photographs that capture the diverse typology of air conditioning systems in the UAE, highlighting their presence in the UAE’s urban architecture and residents’ everyday lives. A short experiential film by Fatema Al Fardan collages a personal oral history, and visuals, to weave together a poetic interpretation of the before-and-after effects of modern air conditioning, showcasing a first-hand account of how it has revolutionised the ways people live and work.

A photographic series by Ahmed Al Kuwaiti plays witness to the intricate relationship between the buildings, people, and air conditioning systems that have made the urban environments of the UAE habitable in intense heat. In addition, poignant portraits of O General employees, technicians, and long-time customers, presented by Augustine Paredes, offer a glimpse into the on-ground human impact of the local air conditioning systems industry.

“We are humbled that O General is firmly entrenched in the region’s cultural fabric, maintaining its market leadership position since inception. Our commitment is unwavering in supporting the UAE’s growth and development over the next 50 years, aligning our technologies and products with the country’s net-zero aspirations by 2050,” said Etsuro Saito, president and CEO at Fujitsu General Limited.