Keeping with UAE’s vision to become one of the top 25 countries for gender equality, artists from the emirates are taking to canvas at a local exhibition to drive home a strong message in favour.
Nineteen artists belonging to 11 nationalities are showcasing their pieces at World Art Dubai which runs from April 3-6. Prominent British artist Maddy Butcher along with other local artists will be part of an exhibition Art Gap.
Standard Chartered Bank, in conjunction with local Emirati artists is hosting Art Gap Dubai. It is the first time a bank is hosting an exhibition of this kind where artists, all women, are showcasing their support for the gender equality cause.
A study conducted by University of Oxford in 2017 revealed that women artists are paid 47.6 per cent less than their male counterparts. Art Gap is the first exhibition to use the revelations of the study to inspire equality, inclusion and women empowerment through art.
To show their disapproval of gender bias and pay inequality, these artists are painting 47.6 per cent less on their canvas.
“If you are paying us 47.6 per cent less, we are painting, 47.6 per cent less,” said Emirati Fatima Alhammadi who is showcasing a calligraphy mixed with abstract act using Gesso acrylic ink of work titled ‘Dancing Letters’ at the exhibition.
“Art is one of the most powerful means to communicate a message. At 47.6 per cent gender pay gap in the world marks the highest gender pay inequality in the world. It is shocking. I definitely want to see this changed. The beauty of art should be judged by the art itself and not the gender.”
Emirati-Jordanian Rula Shubair who has created an oil painting titled 'Al Sakb' for the exhibition admitted to being paid less than her male counterparts. Her artwork featuring racing horses sends the message that women too have the power to change, and deserve to be treated equally in the corporate or art world.
Another strong voice came from Indian artist, Beena Samuel, who is exhibiting a mixed-media piece - created using fabric, torn canvas, old lace, pieces of clay, charcoal, inks, sculptural elements along with acrylic media - called 'Ode to She'.
Samuel said, “Paintings are like poetry and 'Ode to She' is dedicated to people who are resilient, industrious, intelligent yet undervalued. I definitely agree that as a woman I am paid less than a man. The only way to counter this is by working hard, getting better informed, educated, creating quality works and raise the awareness on the importance of gender equality.”
Yet another Indian artist, Candida Miranda, is showcasing a contemporary abstract piece using acrylics on mixed media titled 'Fragmentos De Amor' which means 'Fragments of Love'. Miranda said that as a mother of three daughters she felt even more strongly the need to broaden the mindset of people and make a difference and close the gap. "Art is about appreciation not bias”, she added.
Pakistani artist Sanaa Merchant, showcasing contemporary abstract art titled “Within me, Out there” said, “Male artists have dominantly showcased contemporary modern art since they presumably were seen as the best in it. My message is women have the same potential, it just needs to be acknowledged. When it comes to a woman there are endless negotiations when it comes to buying or commissioning projects. I would like to educate and create more awareness of what goes behind the scenes in the production of a creative work so we can earn a higher respect in creating an art work.”
Lebanese – Russian expat, Dina Saadi, has done a piece on acryclic and collage on canvas.
“Women should not be expected to charge less for the same work as men. There are many things we can do about the pay gap. As a start men and women, especially decision makers should take this matter very seriously. Companies should be more transparent and make their pay scale public. Governments must sanction paternal leave just like maternal leave and provide day care for families with children and more. Female artists in the street art scene should be given more chances and involvement in big projects, exhibitions and festivals”, Saadi said.
Rola Abu Manneh, CEO, Standard Chartered UAE said: “In April 2018, the UAE Cabinet approved the issuance of the Law on Equal Wages and Salaries for Men and Women to ensure that women have equal opportunities as partners in the UAE’s development. We would like to see this in every profession besides the art and banking world."
Batool Jafri, Curator of World Art Dubai and Emirates Woman of the Year 2018, said, "We want local voices to join this global conversation. We want to inspire companies across industries to drive the change to equally pay men and women. When they come and see the exhibition and buy a painting – they are really buying a statement.”