"If there is one word to describe the United Arab Emirates it is 'United'”, said artist Amna Al Dabbagh, who was one of the featured artists in ‘Portrait of a Nation’, an exhibition that was displayed in Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, from April 11th till May 10th 2016. Part of the Abu Dhabi Festival, ‘Portrait of a Nation’ celebrated Emirati artists and their works focused on the UAE's culture, architecture, nature, identity, traditions and religion. You can find out more information about the exhibition here.
At first entry, visitors were greeted with a large mirrored piece that had an immediately recognisable shape for people who have been brought up in the UAE. Etched into this mirror were the lines tracing the UAE’s borders along with texts in numerous languages as well as the title of the artwork, ‘United’. This mirror artwork by Amna Al Dabbagh united all 7 Emirates together with the languages of the 200 plus nationalities, as well as the reflection of exhibition visitors who also make up this nation we all call home.
Another familiar sight for the UAE’s residents were the cafeterias and shawarma shops populating Khalid Mezaina’s series of illustrations, 'Cafeterias of the UAE', which document urban life in the UAE. Speaking about the drawings, Khalid says: "the UAE has a rich history of ‘shawarma’ shops and cafeterias all across the country, catering to not just specific communities in the UAE, but the entire nation as a whole. Emiratis, expats and everyone in between flock to these cafeterias daily for an affordable sandwich, a humorously titled juice, or a plastic cup of sugared, steaming hot chai! these cafeterias are iconic structures in the UAE's culture and urban landscape. Not only are they places of social encounters, but places of deep context in understanding food culture of the UAE. Through illustration, I would like to archive these cafeterias as important, iconic institutions and its importance to their communities. In the UAE, major cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are growing at an exceptionally fast pace, changing the landscape of a city tremendously, with things of the past unfortunately getting lost. Only time will tell if these cafeterias will survive through these current changes. I hope these illustrations would act as a form of documentation and nostalgia for anyone that has encountered these cafeterias while growing up in the UAE."
Khalid is part of our limited edition art print collection and you can see our range of prints by the artist here.
Another piece which was an eye catcher, was Aisha Juma's 'Inner Pilgrimage', which created a meditative experience for visitors within the gallery, allowing them a moment of peace and personal space in this exhibition.
For those of you who didn't manage to catch the exhibition before it closed, you can see more in our gallery below.