Noha Al-Sharif — an expert in Islamic sculpture

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Updated 24 April 2014
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Noha Al-Sharif — an expert in Islamic sculpture

Saudi sculptress Noha Al-Sharif is known for her Islamic inspired sculptures that reflect both, religion and lifestyle. The concept of modern art attracted her to this medium where she majored in Porcelain and Textile. She is interested in Islamic Art and she loves to read about Asian Art" Indian Chinese and Egyptian Art.
Al-Sharif has an interest in the representation of groups and the sculptural history of how different figures relate to each other. In 2011 she studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London where she obtained a diploma in Asian, South Asian and Islamic Art and developed her interest in the relationship between sculpture and faith. She is currently undergoing a Ph.D. in Islamic Art from Winchester University and is writing her thesis on the history of Kiswat Al-Kaaba, Arabic for mantle of Kaaba.
The sculptress created figurines of groups of women conducting the Islamic prayer ritual, made from clay or marble aggregate and polyester resin. Displayed all together on a large white plinth at knee level, she presents “Jamaa”. The group of miniscule figures, sculpted from marble and resin, ranging from 5cm to 15cm high creates an overwhelming aura of peace, focus and cohesion.
Al-Sharif eliminates any facial details and abstracts the organic dark sculptures into representations of female figures that have been described as evoking similarities to fingers reacting in harmony as part of the same body or entity. The artist feels strongly that her sculptures are not intended to offend nor be turned into sacred objects, as she is all too aware that religious representation is traditionally discouraged in Islam. Instead Al-Sharif clarifies: “This work is my expression of the power of prayer. My intention here is entirely pure”.
Al-Sharif finds inspiration in Muslim women’s life. “My sculpture so far has been essentially autobiographic, my life in Makkah. To make sculpture out of this background is controversial, but for me it is based in faith and religious and deeply personal. It is that which I explore in my art, out of my experience of life in Makkah where I have lived for much of my life,” she said. “My sculptures come very precisely from my religious life in the Holy City, even if what I do is not at all conventional in terms of Islamic art and in fact, quite the opposite.”
The black color is the only color that the artist uses in my sculptures representing the black covering Abaya for women. The color is part of the concept in her work, according to Al-Sharif. “My ideas reflect my love of the way the cloth and textile inherent in traditional dress envelopes the women around me who are all wearing black. Neither I nor anyone else can see who they are. More often than not, I have no idea of the identity of those of whom I make sculptures.”
Al-Sharif’s sculptures reflect her response to women’s gatherings in the Holy Mosque. “To me, they are like anonymous sisters. They are like sisters standing together with me and we are all dressed the same. The black veil for me is not a covering form; it is a personality and togetherness. It is that religious feeling that my sculpture addresses. What has been striking to me when exhibiting my work in London, Istanbul and Shanghai is that other women from my background in Arabia identified and recognized what I was trying to convey,” she said.
Hamla (pilgrimage) is a name of one of Al-Sharif’s sculpture and concept of this work comes from the group of women performing the process of Haj in Holy Makkah. “I took this photograph after I performed my prayers. I sat around them and watched them from a distance and to me they looked really beautiful. They all wore white which is the traditional dress for Haj, they attached bright color tags made of cloth on their backs so they can be identified of the groups name and nationality,” she said. “Most of these groups are foreigners, they do not know their way around the city and the tags on their backs help them find each other when one is lost. This looks stunning to me because I love walking around by myself and I love watching how they walk in groups carefully so they don’t lose each other but I produce my sculptures in different colors in one group because I think about all of these individuals within the group, people are the same, but they are different at the same time, all coming to Makkah to be closed to Allah,” she added.

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Making Dubai Design Week a creative success

Dubai Design Week is set to run until Nov. 17. (Image supplied)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Making Dubai Design Week a creative success

  • Dubai Design Week kicked off in the city’s edgy Design District on Nov 12
  • This year’s theme, “Between the Lines,” can be regarded as a storytelling experience

DUBAI: As Dubai Design Week kicked off in the city’s edgy Design District, Rawan Kashkoush, creative director and head of programming at the event, shared her insight on the seminal fair with Arab News.

After four years of experience in Dubai’s annual design festival, Kashkoush talked about the importance of the city as a host in the Arab region.

“Dubai functions as an economic and political safe haven in the region. A lot of people come here and consider it home,” she said.

That said, Dubai Design Week, which runs from Nov. 13-17, is considered an international event as much as a local one. “This creates a beautiful blend,” Kashkoush said.

The design festival showcases three different major attractions that offer visitors a plethora of boundary-pushing design innovation.

First up is the commercial fair, called Downtown Design, which is an interior design trade show focusing on high-end, curated items from around the world. With 175 contemporary design brands, including 40 regional designers, the fair presents Middle Eastern talent alongside international designers. Visitors will also be able to commission limited-edition and bespoke items at the fair’s new section, Downtown Editions.

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Don’t miss ‘Nothing into Something’ a workshop led by Theresa Millard, Project Manager, Sustainability and Stewardship at @kohler. The workshop will be held on 14 November, from 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM, and will take place in @d3dubai in the building 4 atrium on the main stage. Can industrial waste be sustainable? This is the question that launched the Kohler Waste Lab and during this workshop, Theresa will discuss the concept behind the Lab and what they are working on. These inventive projects include repurposing items such as pottery cull, foundry sand and other traditional manufacturing ‘waste’ streams into ceramic tiles, table tops and more. . . . . . . #DXBDW2018 #DesignNews #DesignWorkshop #Sustainability #SustainableDesign #Kohler #Repurposing #Workshop #DesignTalks

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“It is for people in the region to push the boundaries of Dubai on an experimental level,” Kashkoush said, explaining the motive behind the commercial trade show.

Next up is the Global Grad Show, which showcases inventions by passionate, upcoming design graduates of 61 nationalities from 100 universities around the world.

But Kashkoush seems to be most enthusiastic about Abwab, an exhibition and architectural installation that brings together design talent from across the Middle East.

“Abwab exhibits a cultural exchange of art between the Middle East and North Africa,” she told Arab News of the exhibit, the title of which translates to “door” in English.

This year’s theme, “Between the Lines,” can be regarded as a storytelling experience in which the various artists and designers were invited to share stories that would encourage visitors to leave with a deeper understanding of the region, to read between the lines as it were.

This year, Abwab features a collection of design experiences drawn from five communities in the Middle East: Amman, Beirut, Dubai, the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait City. Two designers have been invited from each place to collaborate and produce works situated in dedicated pavilions.

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In time for #DXBDW2018's official launch day tomorrow, here’s a preview of what to expect from the Middle East’s largest creative festival. With a programme of over 250+ exhibitions, installations, talks and workshops, the best of the design world will be taking over @d3Dubai until 17 November 2018. Staged in partnership with Dubai Design District (@d3Dubai) and supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (@dubaiculture) and Audi Middle East (@audimiddleeast), this year's Dubai Design Week programme is the most comprehensive to date. Don't forget to download the Dubai Design Week app to make the most of the event. . . . . . . #DXBDW2018 #preview #designevent #designeventdubai #designdaysdubai #installations #exhibitions #globaldesign #designcommunity #creativecommunity #sneakpeek #dxb #dubai

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