Dana Awartani uses Indian craftsmanship to explore Arab poetry in Sharjah

‘Listen to My Words’ (2018) by Dana Awartani. (Photo courtesy: Maraya Art Center)
Updated 26 December 2018
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Dana Awartani uses Indian craftsmanship to explore Arab poetry in Sharjah

  • Jeddah-based artist Dana Awartani is showcasing her work in an exhibition called “The Silence Between Us”
  • Set to run until Feb. 18 at the Maraya Art Center in Sharjah

DUBAI: Set to run until Feb. 18 on the sidelines of the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival, Jeddah-based artist Dana Awartani is showcasing her work in an exhibition called “The Silence Between Us” at the Maraya Art Center in the emirate.

“The Silence Between Us” brings together pieces from the artist’s repertoire and is a prime example of her unique use of layering. Poetry and light are key elements in her work and the exhibition in Sharjah — her first in the Middle East, according to the gallery — is evidence of that.

Curated by Laura Metzler, the exhibition is laid out in a cyclical pattern and opens and closes with Awartani’s recent installation, “Listen to My Words” (2018), which features seven screens of hand embroidered silk panels inspired by the “Jali” screen — an architectural form common in traditional buildings in the Indian Subcontinent that allows airflow in buildings, but prevents onlookers from being able to gaze in.

Each screen is associated with a line of poetry from female poets of the Arab world throughout history. Other pieces featured in the exhibition include “Love is my Law, Love is my Faith” (2016), which was inspired by the love poems of Andalusian Muslim scholar Ibn Arabi and a fascinating drawing from her “Caliphates” series that shows the evolution of the tradition of illumination throughout the history of the art.

Awartani, who was educated at London’s Central Saint Martins, lives and works in Jeddah and draws inspiration from Indian textile, woodwork and glasswork production processes

In addition to the artist’s works on show, new pieces were created in collaboration with craftsmen in India over a four-month period leading up to the show. The piece “To See and Not Be Seen” (2018) — an embroidered-textile piece that expands on her interest in female poets in the Arab world — is one of those.

Another installation piece by the artist, “All (heavenly bodies) swim along, each in its orbit’” (2016), is on show at the Sharjah Art Museum and is an important part of the wider Islamic arts festival as it was inspired by a Qur’anic verse.


Calling all cat lovers: Dubai art gallery spotlights strays

Artist Angel-O takes to the streets of Dubai to photograph stray cats. Angel-O/FN Designs
Updated 23 March 2019
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Calling all cat lovers: Dubai art gallery spotlights strays

DUBAI: FN Designs, a gallery in Dubai’s artsy Alserkal Avenue, is spotlighting street cats in a new exhibition by artist-photographer Angel-O until April 30.

The multidisciplinary art and design studio chose to highlight the Filipino photographer’s work in a bid to raise awareness about the situation of strays in the UAE.

The exhibition opened in March with a panel discussion titled “Catnip.” The artist was joined by Nour Fakher, a vet at Blue Oasis Clinic, and Sara Abdelal, a cat rescuer in Dubai.

The artist started his journey when his landlord enforced a strict no-pet policy. Angel-O took to the streets to photograph stray cats in order to remain close to the animals.

Artist Angel-O takes to the streets of Dubai to photograph stray cats. Angel-O/FN Designs

“Most of these photos are taken in different parts of Dubai, in the nooks and crannies of streets,” he said, referring to his collection of photographs, which were taken in 2014 but shown for the first time in this show.

 “I am so glad my artwork is able to help these cats. I’ve had people come up and enquire about the location of the photograph so they could go back and help the cat in the picture,” he said.

 “I’m really relieved that people find this collection… of mine moving.”

Cat rescuer Abdelal stressed the importance of the TNR method of treating strays — trapping, neutering and releasing them.

“While we are trying to help find a safe home or habitat for the existing cats on our streets, let’s prevent their number from increasing. These animals can’t speak to us, we need to find a way to understand and help them,” she said.  

The UAE government has made moves to reduce the number of street cats through newly mandated animal welfare regulations that were handed down by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in December.

A failure to properly care for animals, including dumping pets, is now punishable by law in the country.