Abu Dhabi: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) will host a commissioned installation showcasing the society’s commitment to raising awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the annual Abu Dhabi Art Fair (ADA).
Established under the Ministry of Community Development, NMSS is a UAE-based NGO that leverages education, advocacy, and global cure-seeking efforts to improve the lives of people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease of the central nervous system that affects over 2.8 million people around the world.
The Society’s participation in the fair, which runs from November 22 to 26, will see the commissioning of a two-part installation curated by Dirwaza Curatorial Lab to raise awareness of MS, inspire advocacy, and foster conversations around the impact of the disease.
Access to the fair is free, and tickets can be booked through the website of Abu Dhabi Art to avoid registration or queues at the venue.
Titled ‘How Nature is Constant When the Sun Never Rests’, the installation is the work of Maitha Al Omaira, a local, award-winning multi-disciplinary artist known for her work with nature, light, and poetry to create interpretations of life and time. It will be exhibited as part of ‘Into the Horizon’, a collaborative installation by ADA’s community partners.
Following the exhibition, it will be moved to Dubai, where it will remain on display throughout COP28 UAE from November 30 to December 12.
By commissioning this artwork, NMSS aims to convey a more profound understanding of MS to a broader audience, using artistic expression as a means to promote advocacy and creatively communicate the complexity of MS.
Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, vice chair of the National MS Society Board of Trustees and Executive Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Programme at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre (ADSCC) said: “Multiple Sclerosis [MS] is not just a diagnosis. It is a journey, a life-changing experience, a story waiting to be told. Those living with MS embody a resilience and strength that remains largely unspoken. Art empowers individuals to question without fear, addressing concerns of limited knowledge. The society’s participation at Abu Dhabi Art Fair provides a creative means to visually represent the complex nature of Multiple Sclerosis.”
She added: “Through visually representing the complexities of living with MS day-to-day, we hope to drive advocacy and awareness of the disease to generate greater support for a future free of MS that aligns with our society’s goals and vision. Through art, we can come together to foster a reality where everyone, regardless of their challenges, can find a supportive community eager to listen and learn.”
About the installation
Maitha Al Omaira’s design reflects the journey of individuals living with MS, aiming to unpack the intricacies of the human body in an abstract structure that connects body and nature. Using alginate to create building blocks, the resulting composition uniquely captures different stages of fauna and flora – which are paired with casts and plaster – to reflect on the consistency of change found in both MS and nature.
Commenting on her project, the artist said: “My work seeks to forge meaningful connections between the physical body, and our surroundings, by exploring the transient nature of leaves, particularly on the ground. Through this dialogue between the human body and nature, I leave space for interpretation, aligning with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s vision of using art to convey an idea and raise awareness.”
The installation will be curated by Munira Al Sayegh, founder of Dirwaza Curatorial Lab. Munira has made contributions to several initiatives in the UAE capital – including NYU Abu Dhabi’s FIND Project (2012) and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s The Creative Act.
“Through this commissioned work, we hope to shed light on the relationship between Multiple Sclerosis and the physical body. We want to create a wider understanding of what Multiple Sclerosis is and the different effects it can have,” Al Sayegh said.
She added: “Through the tool of art, this work aims to create a base for a safe space for people to discuss Multiple Sclerosis and create an understanding that all bodies and abilities can coexist; this idea of harmony is central to the work, and to the realities of Multiple Sclerosis.”
The installation will be on public display at Manarat Al Saadiyat, located in the community partners section of the fair.
As part of NMSS’s participation in the upcoming fair, two workshops will be held. Led by Dirwaza and Maitha Al Omaira, the workshops will take place concurrently with Abu Dhabi Art Fair at Jubail Mangrove Park. On November 23, guests are invited to ‘Image to Impression: Exploring Cyanotype’, where Maitha Al Omaria will introduce participants to one of the techniques she often employs in her own artworks, cyanotype.
On November 28, participants will be able to enjoy ‘Pathway to Understanding: A Walking and Writing Workshop’, where guests will be prompted to consider the connection between the mangroves and the human body nervous system, with special attention to MS.
Public events not only offer a unique opportunity to engage with creativity but to also learn about society, organisers said.
Jubail Mangrove Park, which spans more than 135,000 square metres, is the first self-contained educational, nature and leisure destination of its kind in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, and was established in 2020.