Abu Dhabi’s historic heart set to reopen with events and exhibits

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism is set to open the newly restored Qasr Al Hosn historic area to the public on Dec. 7. (Photo courtesy: Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Abu Dhabi’s historic heart set to reopen with events and exhibits

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism is set to open the newly restored Qasr Al Hosn historic area to the public on Dec. 7.

Al Hosn is Abu Dhabi’s original urban block, comprised of four interrelated components: The historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the National Consultative Council building, the Cultural Foundation and the House of Artisans. The inner fort was built around 1795 to protect the settlement of Abu Dhabi, established on the island in the 1760s, while the outer palace was built in the 1940s.

(Photo courtesy: Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi)



The official launch will be a celebration of the capital’s history and culture, with a week of public events to mark the occasion from Dec. 7-15. Free tours, events and musical performances will bring the site’s history to life, with activities including everything from traditional Talli embroidery, rope-making and khoos weaving lessons to learning about how the first fishing nets were cast and made.

The inner fort exhibition traces the story of Qasr Al Hosn and the historic events it has witnessed, while the outer palace rooms will display the stories of the people who lived in the palace and their everyday lives.
Chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak shared his excitement about the opening in a released statement.

(Photo courtesy: Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi)



“Qasr Al Hosn embodies the heritage of Abu Dhabi, and (is) a poignant witness to the historic and fundamental milestones in the development of our country. At the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, we are proud to re-introduce this cultural monument after it has been preserved, restored and renovated to become part of Al Hosn, an unparalleled cultural destination in the heart of the city.”
The renovated Cultural Foundation will host a series of events in its new Visual Arts Center, including an exhibition focusing on UAE artists called “Artists and the Cultural Foundation: The Early Years.” The show will feature more than 100 works by artists active in the institution’s early days in the 1980s and 90s. Curated by Maya Allison, chief curator and executive director of NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, with Alia Zaal Lootah, senior curatorial assistant of Louvre Abu Dhabi, the exhibition will reflect on the building’s history as a convener of artists and creatives and its role in nurturing a cultural scene in the UAE.


Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

Jana Ghalayini’s work at Art Dubai invited visitors to draw on their responses.
Updated 12 min 59 sec ago
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Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

  • Female-led art collective wants society to rethink the way women of color are perceived
  • Banat Collective publishes artworks in print and online and hosts events to encourage debate

DUBAI: Sara bin Safwan founded the Banat Collective in 2016 to connect with other like-minded people, championing
their art through the group’s website, banatcollective.com.
The group aims to help society to rethink the way women of color are perceived by showcasing contemporary art, poetry and other writings. The collective publishes artistic works in print and online and hosts events aimed at spreading awareness and encouraging debate.
“A lot of the artists are young and emerging and never had the chance to be either exhibited or publicized, so we interview them to offer a critical, insightful look at their work,” said Safwan, 25.


Now an assistant curator at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Safwan graduated from London’s world-famous Central Saint Martins college in 2015 with a degree in culture, criticism and curation.
It was while studying in Britain that she developed a keen interest in post-colonial theory; the Banat Collective focuses on themes relating to both womanhood and intersectionality, which is an analytic framework to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those most marginalized in society.
“The mission is not only to connect artists but open up discussions about Arab womanhood in the region, because there’s not necessarily any other place to do so. We do that through art, poetry and other writings,” Safwan said.
“I use the word ‘womanhood’ to make it a more accessible term because if I use ‘feminism,’ it’s a very politically charged word that has almost been tainted by Western ideologies. And those Western ideologies don’t necessarily fit within our context as Middle Easterners.”
“In the Middle of it All” is the collective’s debut publication. Released in 2018, the book is a 31-artist collaboration of visual art, writing and poetry. Our book is a means to help us stand out — it’s thoughtfully curated and tackles a specific issue, which is ‘coming of age’,” she says.
“It’s a notion that’s taboo in the Arab world and either unheard of or misunderstood. It was a chance for female artists to tell their own story.
“Throughout the book, we go through many topics such as puberty, identity, sexual harassment and abuse, sisterhood, motherhood, beauty standards and all these other societal expectations.”
The collective held its first exhibition as part of March’s Art Dubai fair, showcasing a short film, “Ivory Stitches & Saviors” by member Sarah Alagroobi, which she describes as an “unflinching glimpse into identity, colonialism and whitewashing.”
Says Safwan: “It’s a tribute to all women of color who have been marginalized and, all too often, erased.”
Another work by Palestinian-Canadian artist Jana Ghalayini is comprised of a 26-meter-long piece of chiffon on which visitors can draw with chalk pastels in response to questions posed by the artist including “How does your environment affect your identity?”
Safwan adds: “The themes we explored were vulnerability and community — it was a way to introduce ourselves in person because previously we only had an online presence.”
Born and raised in the UAE to Honduran and Emirati parents, Safwan is now working with Alagroobi and Ghalayini to brainstorm ideas for future projects that include a podcast series on the notion of shame. The collective is self-funded and run by volunteers.
“I hope there will be more opportunities to showcase our work and collaborate with others. This year, we will be publishing more content,” Safwan said.