NAME: Suhail Jashanmal
LIVES IN: Abu Dhabi
ABOUT GREEN ABU DHABI: A three-week art show focusing on educating the community about the environment and sustainability. The initiative is a call to action and invites the UAE community to ‘paint the town green' and be more environmentally- aware.
What is Green Abu Dhabi and why should we be interested?
Green Abu Dhabi is a grass roots initiative designed to activate as many individuals, companies, or government agencies to solve, with group action, some basic problems we face in the city. Often, I've heard queries from friends about "How do I recycle my bottles" or "Where can I recycle paper" and even "Why don't they have any signs on the islands about littering". A lot of these issues can easily be addressed, all it needed was some local understanding, and someone passionate enough to follow through. But since no one did that, nothing got done. So I decided to set up a forum wherein we would examine what we already know about such problems, and provide actual solutions to at least one problem per year.
We are cleaning up a mangrove consistently for at least a year now. Why? A year ago I chanced upon a man-made fire that was visible to the public. I promptly put it out, but couldn't believe that no one had bothered about it till then, or help me when I was putting it out. This "It's not my problem" attitude is the real issue here. I realised the need for a major awareness campaign to tackle this lethargy on people's part. But it was also necessary to set an example - one that clearly showed that if an individual activated his own network, the possibilities were limitless. So this show formed around me activating myself and then my network, to clean up that mangrove.
I hope people who attend the show will ask themselves this question - what can I do to help? The idea of the art show is to help everyone explore the answers to that query.
How has the corporate community responded to your initiative? Have sponsors been forthcoming?
Very well. At first, things were a bit difficult, considering we are in the midst of a global financial crisis. But once some of the larger corporate and government sponsors came on board, it was just a matter of time before more rolled in. We have some very big brands behind us right now. And their involvement with this project signals a strong sense of involvement from the community. More importantly this shows that a good idea will eventually get everyone on board.
Tell us a bit about some of the artists being featured. Anyone in particular that you are really excited about?
Five emerging artists from Abu Dhabi have been selected this year. All five represent different ethnicities, share different perspectives and different goals are reflected in their work. The important thing is that over six to eight months they were presented with a challenge - to create new work within a certain curatorial statement or paradigm on the environment and sustainable development. And then, we worked together to mould their work into one consistent message for the public. There were guidelines - their work had to be fresh and original and needed to possess the artist's unique style. Their work had to tie-in with our message.
I am impartial in my assessment of their work. So I do not have one artist whose work I favour over the other, but their work seems to be getting better with each passing day. Occasionally though, I do find myself enjoying one artist over the others, but then it changes.
To answer your query on the artist to look out for - I'll leave that to you to find out.
The UAE currently has one of the highest carbon footprints in the world. Do you think a one-off solo exhibition such as Green Abu Dhabi will help create awareness?
Firstly, this is not a one-off exhibition. And even if it was, its goal is not only to further awareness, but to fix a current problem. So regardless of whether we have another event, this year alone we would have solved one problem in the city.
We would have cleaned up, with corporates and government-backing, a mangrove in distress. That is something real and tangible.
What next? Will you be curating more shows in the UAE in the coming months?
A few more shows are planned in the coming year. Of course, I can't give you more details about them, until things are finalised.
You are involved with German branding and design agency MetaDesign in the UAE. Tell us a bit about that.
I founded MetaDesign Middle East, and I am now their agent in Abu Dhabi. MetaDesign AG, is one of the largest branding firms in the world and Link Design and MetaDesign AG formed a relationship about five years ago, through which we worked on branding for major corporations and the government. You will probably recognise our work when you see Abu Dhabi's new media hub Two Four 54.
Green Abu Dhabi will feature five emerging artists and is being held from October 15 at the Emirates Heritage Club in Bateen