Dubai: Ahmad Al Awadhi is an Emirati artist trying connect the UAE’s youth with its past in order to preserve the country’s heritage.
Better known as ‘Rukni’, the 60-year-old began exhibiting his work in 1992 after a friend said his paintings, of traditional Emirati architecture, dallah coffee pots and wildlife, were too good to go unseen.
“As an artist, it is my duty to showcase my country and represent where I come from,” Al Awadhi told Gulf News this week at Al Ahmediya Heritage House in Bur Dubai where some of his work is displayed.
Inspired by the traditional houses that remind him of his upbringing in Sharjah, Al Awadhi hopes to portray the story of the UAE to Emirati youth as well as an international audience.
“I have a close connection to the older heritage because I grew up around it,” he said. “The younger generation need to be reminded of the beauty of our culture and I hope to do that through my art.”
UAE National Day, December 2, is Al Awadhi’s busiest time of year as he is invited to showcase his art across nationwide exhibitions. He also does live painting sessions on December 2 where viewers can watch as he creates art from start to finish.
Last year the live session took place in Mina Rashid facing the Queen Elizabeth 2 former cruise liner, which is now a permanently-docked floating hotel in Dubai.
Additionally, Al Awadhi always creates one “special artwork” each year for National Day.
For his special piece last year he painted the late Founding Father Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
“Shaikh Zayed is a beloved figure, and he should be celebrated in our art,” said Al Awadhi, who won’t reveal his intentions for this year’s special project, except to say that it involves his hometown of Sharjah.
One of his favourite and most notable pieces is that of Pope Francis and the Imam of Al Azhar created when they met eachother in Abu Dhabi in February during a Papal visit for the signing of a Human Fraternity Document as part of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.
The artwork is now displayed in the Dubai Office of the Ministry of Tolerance.
“People were seeing the true meaning of tolerance and that moment has shown the world that tolerance is part of the UAE and will remain part of us. It is my responsibility as an Emirati to show people that.
“When I was young, art was not given the importance it has today,” he added. “Young people now have all the encouragement and support to be creative and artistic.”
These developments are thanks to the opening of galleries and museums like the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
Art, he believes, will help broaden the views and imagination of youth and with National Day coming up he encourages artists from all nationalities to use their talent to represent who they are and where they come from.
“We are all telling our story through our art and we should use our country’s culture, heritage and achievements to tell our story.”