‘Dhai Dubai’ brings an exciting burst of cultural vibrancy to Dubai’s cultural calendar. Curators Amna Abulhoul, a fervent advocate for Dubai’s culture, and Australian luminary Anthony Bastic AM create an installation that blends light, texture, and narrative, echoing the essence of Dubai’s heritage. “Here, I orchestrate symphonies of sight and sound that transport audiences to otherworldly realms”, commented Abulhoul in her curatorial statement.
For the inaugural event, the curators focus on Emirati artists, both emerging and established, focusing on the wealth of artistic accomplishment and the rich heritage of the Emirates. The seven light art installations reflect the city’s rich tapestry of narratives and creative expressions. Participating artists and designers include Mattar Bin Lahej, Dr Najat Makki, Dr Mohamed Yousif, Abdalla Almulla, Maitha Hamdan, Khalid Al Shafar and Reem Al Ghaith.
Esther Mahlangu, ‘Sisters of the Desert’, projection. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
The ‘Sisters of the Desert’ projections in the iconic dome on Al Wasl Plaza transform works into larger-than-life canvases by the late Dhabia Juma Lamlah. The projections include works by international guest artists Australian Rene Kulitja and Dr Esther Mahlangu from South Africa. The works showcase the universal resilience that unites us all and the power of art to bridge individuals and cultures separated by seemingly immense distances. The projected works pay tribute to Dhabia and her creative sisters from across the globe – sisters who share her resilience and passion for art.
Reem Al Ghaith, Daraweezna, mixed media. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Reem Al Ghaith’s installation Daraweezna, meaning ‘Our Doors’ in Arabic, explores urban transformation in the UAE. Three projections onto arched gates offer a glimpse into the textures and design motifs of a past Dubai and document the beautifully decorated and engraved metal doors of homes in the old neighbourhoods of Dubai. These designs incorporated cultural elements like the medkhan, dallah, falcon, and natural elements, including oasis plants, desert leaves, and coastal seashells. A soundtrack recording of her grandparents recounting stories of family life from the past accompanies the work.
Mattar Bin Lahe, Movement of stillness, Stainless steel and LED flex. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Artist Mattar Bin Lahe’s work comprises a freestanding stainless steel structure incorporating LED flex along its edges. The work spans 7.5 meters long and creates a dynamic interplay of light and form. The abstract sculpture, Movement of stillness, depicts 3 racing horses galloping, capturing this energy’s movement.
Khalid Alshafar, The Nomad 2.0, light installation. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Khalid Alshafar’s work is entitled The Nomad 2.0 and is a fusion of traditional Arabic calligraphy and contemporary design elements. It showcases a central palm trunk tower, 24 moving light fixtures and a series of angled mirrors, creating a mesmerising laser light show. A loud soundtrack reverberates through the viewer’s body when entering the glass box, encapsulating the installation. Light plays a key role by injecting life into the design and creating a space influencing people’s energy and interactions.
Najat Makki, Echos of Memories. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Dr Najat Makki’s work, a series of illuminated larger-than-life illuminated figures, reflects a unique perspective on the region’s beauty, bridging the gap between traditional aesthetics and contemporary art. The Echos of Memories installation carries the journey of the artist’s life and her stories of her experience living on the banks of Dubai Creek.
Abdalla Almulla, Minaret 2.0, light installation. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Abdalla Almulla explains, “The sun is the indicator of the prayer time in Islam” The work explores the creation of a kinetic minaret composed of a geometric pattern programmed to respond to the sun’s movement. Entitled Minaret 2.0, the light installation gradually changes colour from sunrise to evening. The viewer will react to the visual iteration to indicate the prayer time of the day.
Mohamed Yousif, Untitled, mixed media. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Dr Mohamed Yousif’s installation comprises a 6-metre-high sculpture and 12 more miniature figures woven in the tradition of using palm fronds and illuminated by LED lights. The artist explains, “I’m still a child, and childhood is an important part of people’s lives, especially when they draw and dream, armed with simplicity and spontaneity.” The installation is accompanied by the sound of the melodies of Ayyalas singing.
Maitha Hamdan, While You Were Away, light installation. © Suzette Bell-Roberts
Maitha Hamdan’s work While You Were Away is a light installation that depicts highlights Hamdan’s unique relationship with her grandmother Fatima Bint Eisa by narrating their personal story. The message is conveyed via an installation consisting of several elements: the prayer scarves that Fatima painstakingly made for Maitha during her illness, the scents used to scent the scarves, and the sincere words of love they wrote on them.
The exhibition runs at Expo City until the 4th of February. Created and produced by Expo City Dubai in partnership with AGB Creative and supported by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. The programme includes a series of talks, educational workshops, projections and immersive experiences. For more information, please visit Dhai Dubai.