Spoken word artist makes herself at home in the Middle East

Danabelle Gutierrez at Louvre Abu Dhabi, where she appeared last month. (Supplied)
Updated 03 December 2018
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Spoken word artist makes herself at home in the Middle East

  • Danabelle Gutierrez emphasized how the UAE has been instrumental for her as an artist.
  • She has published two poetry books while living in Dubai and is soon releasing a third book

DUBAI: “I've been a vagabond for far too long now. I can't keep navigating the rough terrains in the land of men. I would like to set my bags down now. I want to go home,” reads a passage from a prose written by Danabelle Gutierrez, a Dubai-based Filipino writer who has found her home in the UAE’s cultural oasis.

Gutierrez settled in Dubai more than a decade ago after moving between five different cities – Manila, Vienna, Oman, Cairo and Doha – a transient life, which according to her, has informed her art.

“I’ve been moving from country to country since I was 7 years old, I bring every city that I’ve lived in, and at some point, called home, with me, and it’s evident in my work, the imagery is all over the poetry,” she said.

“I have lived here for nearly 15 years, and it’s the longest that I’ve stayed anywhere,” she added.

Although Gutierrez admitted that she’s only in the country “for as long my job allows me to be here,” she emphasized how the UAE has been instrumental for her as an artist.

She has published two poetry books while living in Dubai and is soon releasing a third book, which she said would deal “a lot with the idea of home and this somehow nomadic existence.”

In 2014, Gutierrez started going to spoken word gigs, sitting in the audience. But after attending three open mic events, she finally stood up and performed her poems, which usually tackle raw human emotions, drawn from her own experiences.

Four years later, Gutierrez’s audience got bigger, as she was handpicked to perform at Louvre Abu Dhabi in early November, a gig she described as the best thing that happened to her career.

“It’s still not my favorite thing to do. I only do it because I want to be fair to the work that I’ve written, and poetry is meant to be read,” she said.

Gutierrez wishes to write and publish more books in the future, while also regularly attending spoken word events.

Gutierrez will be appearing as part of the fourth annual Hekayah at the East Plaza in New York University Abu Dhabi on Dec. 5, along with nine other award-winning spoken word artists. 


Saudi Arabia’s East Coast Festival lines up top-class cultural activities

Updated 57 min 19 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s East Coast Festival lines up top-class cultural activities

  • Dammam Corniche event celebrates Saudi heritage; more ‘seasons’ to come
  • The festival is being held at the waterfront of King Abdullah Park, and access to the 10-day event is free

DAMMAM: People in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province have had no shortage of things to do during the Sharqiah Season. From pop concerts featuring international artists to massive sporting events, there is something for everyone among the 83 different events planned.

However, it would be remiss not to celebrate the heritage and culture of the country itself. The Enter East Coast Festival, an open-air marketplace with plenty of activities for locals and tourists to enjoy.

The festival is being held along the Dammam Corniche, at the waterfront of King Abdullah Park, and access to the 10-day event is free.

It features stalls with craftsmen beavering away. At one, a potter is bent over a wheel as he makes vases, lanterns and small toys. At another, carpenters fashion chairs and tables out of planks of wood. A weaver hums as he plaits together palm fronds to form baskets and fans.

The vendors are mostly from Saudi Arabia, but there are other countries showcasing their work too. 

Fishermen and sailors from Oman display pearls still in their shells, delicate replicas of traditional fishing boats, and stretches of fishing net. The stalls from Kuwait feature items from the past and vendors from Bahrain offer local sweets, handmade items and clothing.

There are Saudi dances and musical performances too. One stage, resembling a ship, features performers dressed as sailors singing traditional sea shanties. Another stage has drummers and a singer. A huge area in the middle of the space is allotted to dancers, flag-bearers, and even armed officers participating in a traditional Ardah, or Saudi dance.

Those looking to eat something can chow down on Saudi offerings including jareesh, margoog, or qursan. There are food trucks selling Western fare such as burgers and tacos. 

The festival runs until March 30, when the Sharqiah Season ends. 

The season is a collaborative effort between the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the General Entertainment Authority, the General Culture Authority and the General Sports Authority. It is the first of 11 scheduled festivals planned across the country for 2019.

Future seasons will focus on different areas of Saudi Arabia, with different entertainment options for each city, and different parts of the year, such as Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.