The Six: Spoken word scene in the UAE

Spoken word forums. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 January 2019
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The Six: Spoken word scene in the UAE

DUBAI: Spoken word has been gaining traction in the UAE, with more and more “open mic” events being hosted in different venues across the country. Some are attended by a big crowd; others are more intimate. Here is a selection.

Punch Poetry
Founded by award-winning Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck, this open-mic night in Dubai started in 2013, the same year Beck won a Backwaters Prize for her “To Live in Autumn” poetry collection about Beirut.

Rooftop Rhythms
One of the more popular groups, Rooftop Rhythms is based in Abu Dhabi, and was founded by poet and educator Dorian Paul Rogers. It promotes community-based arts and culture through its regular gatherings.

Blank Space
This open-mic platform in Dubai is hosted monthly at the Book Munch Cafe in one of the city’s busiest business districts. It attracts more than 120 people in an intimate creative gathering, where 25 people usually take the stage.

Dubai Poetics
This group focuses on empowering grassroots poetry and visual art through encouraging local artists to submit their works. It publishes curated art pieces online, which attract audiences across the region.

DXB Speakeasy
This was born out of the passion of three spoken-word artists, who teamed up to establish a poetry platform that promotes both writing and performing poems. Workshops are under way for artists who want to learn more about the craft.

Echoes
Based in Abu Dhabi, Echoes hosts open mics at Shabby Chic, a local cafe in the UAE capital. Its goal is to “give voices” to new and budding talents, not only in poetry, but also in music.

 


UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

Updated 18 June 2019
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UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

  • Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi
  • The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017

FONTAINEBLEAU: An exquisite 19th-century French theater outside Paris that fell into disuse for one and half centuries has been restored with the help of a €10 million donation from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
The Napoleon III theater at Fontainebleau Palace south of Paris was built between 1853 and 1856 under the reign of the nephew of emperor Napoleon I.
It opened in 1857 but was used only a dozen times, which has helped preserve its gilded adornments, before being abandoned in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III.
But during a state visit to France in 2007, Sheikh Khalifa, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, was reportedly entranced by the abandoned theater and offered €10 million ($11.2 million) on the spot for its restoration.
After a project that has lasted 12 years the theater is now being reopened.
An official inauguration is expected soon, hosted by French Culture Minister Franck Riester and attended by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the first foreign institution to carry the name of the great Paris museum.
For all its ornate beauty, the theater has hardly ever been used for its orginal purpose, hosting only a dozen performances between 1857 and 1868, each attended by around 400 people.
“While it had been forgotten, the theater was in an almost perfect state,” said the head of the Fontainebleau Palace, Jean-Francois Hebert.
“Let us not waste this jewel, and show this extraordinary place of decorative arts,” he added.
According to the palace, the theater is “probably the last in Europe to have kept almost all its original machinery, lighting and decor.”
Having such a theater was the desire of Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie. But after the defeat, his capture in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the declaration of France’s Third Republic, the theater fell into virtual oblivion.
Following the renovation, the theater will mainly be a place to visit and admire, rather than for regularly holding concerts.
“The aim is not to give the theater back to its first vocation” given its “very fragile structure,” said Hebert.
Short shows and recitals may be performed in exceptional cases, under the tightest security measures and fire regulations. But regular guided tours will allow visitors to discover the site, including the stage sets.
The restoration aimed to use as little new material as possible, with 80 percent of the original material preserved.
The opulent central chandelier — three meters high and 2.5 meters wide — has been restored to its original form.