Visitors look at the artworks on display Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News

 The world’s largest dagger measuring 2.7m in length, 23cm in width and weighing 120 kilos is part of an exhibition that opened at the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation on June 26, 2012.

Emad Ghalghay, the UAE-based Syrian artist of Chechen origin, could set a new world record if he enters the dagger in the Guinness World Records, breaking the current record held by Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel), Oman, for the khanja (traditional Omani dagger) measuring 91.50 cm in length and 21.60 cm at its widest point.

Ghalghay’s exhibition titled, Chirping Swords, hinges two worlds — warfare and art, displaying more than 30 daggers, swords, spears and firearms adorned with Arabic calligraphy, Islamic ornamentation, carvings and precious gems. His large-scale works span different mediums from steel to wood and leather.

The exhibition also draws parallels between Chechen and Arab traditions, using personal weaponry as a symbol of honour and national pride.

Speaking to Gulf News, Ghalghay said, “I use aspects of our shared culture based on weaponry and how it is considered a symbol of pride. Some pieces have taken longer than three months to create; I operate from my workshop in Sharjah. I also made the world’s largest sword — 6m in length, weighing 200 kilos.”

Engr Ibrahim Varouqa, a Project Manager in Dubai and the artist’s friend, also of Chechen origin, explained that the artistic influence of the pieces trace to the traditions of North Caucasus of the Caucasus region. “In Circassian, the dagger is called ‘Kama’ and the cavalry sword ‘shashka’. The kama is like a man’s name; it will never leave him,” he said.

The exhibition is well timed according to Bilal Al Budoor, the Assistant Under-Secretary of Cultural and Arts Affairs at the Ministry of Culture. He told Gulf News that despite the televised images of war, the artist conveys there is more to life than conflict. “The artist reminds us that there is time and place for art,” he said.

Fatima Al Sayegh, Associate Professor at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and Board member of the Foundation ,said that the exhibition ties Arab and Chechen culture, bringing in several artistic aspects. She told Gulf News, symbols of warfare are ingrained in culture. “Daggers and swords used to be part of the Bedouin dress, and our heritage.”

Gulf News spoke to a few visitors. Nada Odeh, a Syrian Artist and Graphic Designer said she was drawn to the idea of using tools of war as art. “I also love the different mediums he used. It must be challenging to work with different techniques and tools.”

Jude Kanawati, a Syrian student in Dubai, said, “The dagger and sword are magnificent. These represent integrity and pride of the Arab, especially with its Islamic calligraphy.”

Emirati Khalil Abdul Wahid said, “Every object is handmade. The artist has mixed materials and styles. It is amazing to see large-scale objects that use detailed craftsmanship instead of factory-based manufacturing.”