The UAE’s art scene isn’t imported, Emirati curator argues

UAE NOW curator Munira Al-Sayegh. (Art Dubai)
Updated 24 March 2019
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The UAE’s art scene isn’t imported, Emirati curator argues

  • Several art platforms participated in the new segment
  • One of the artists said her piece is actually a collaboration with the public

ABU DHABI: This year, Art Dubai introduced a new segment into its program — the UAE NOW exhibit that showcased the country’s local independent, artist-run platforms.

The region’s largest art fair ran from March 20-23 and Arab News caught up with UAE NOW curator Munira Al-Sayegh to find out more about the push to showcase homegrown creativity.

“The UAE NOW section of Art Dubai is extremely important to me. It is a moment where we are looking at the cross-collaboration of grassroots platforms that have taken place out of the sheer idea of collaboration between creatives and it is extremely important to showcase this as a counter-narrative to the usual stereotypical idea that the UAE’s art scene is a very commercial art scene or one that is imported,” the curator said.

The participating platforms included Bait 15, Banat Collective, Jaffat el Aqlam, PAC (Public Art Collective) and Daftar Asfar. The platforms were invited to showcase their works and many ended up creating small, informal spaces that showed off the artists’ pieces in a cozy atmosphere. Bait 15’s booth featured a large mattress in the middle, where visitors could rest their weary feet, and the Banat Collective boasted draped chiffon on which passers-by could draw and doodle with chalk pastels.  

The piece by Saudi Arabia-based Palestinian artist Jana Ghalayini was a “collaboration with the public,” she told Arab News, adding that she was hoping to explore themes of identity and empowerment through the interactive installation.

For her part, co-founder of the Abu Dhabi-based Bait 15 studio Afra Al-Dhaheri was equally interested in opening up a dialogue.

“This is the first time that Art Dubai allows for community spaces to be present… I think this dialogue has to emerge one way or another, like, having the artist community speak,” she told Arab News.  

“Art is important for any society. It’s a register for the history of the society, the community and the times,” she added.


What We Are Reading Today: Racial Migrations by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof

Updated 19 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Racial Migrations by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof

  • In Racial Migrations, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof presents a vivid portrait of these largely forgotten migrant revolutionaries

In the late 19th century, a small group of Cubans and Puerto Ricans of African descent settled in the segregated tenements of New York City.

At an immigrant educational society in Greenwich Village, these early Afro-Latino New Yorkers taught themselves to be poets, journalists, and revolutionaries, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

At the same time, these individuals — including Rafael Serra, a cigar maker, writer, and politician; Sotero Figueroa, a typesetter, editor, and publisher; and Gertrudis Heredia, one of the first women of African descent to study midwifery at the University of Havana — built a political network and articulated an ideal of revolutionary nationalism centered on the projects of racial and social justice.

These efforts were critical to the poet and diplomat José Martí’s writings about race and his bid for leadership among Cuban exiles, and to the later struggle to create space for black political participation in the Cuban Republic.

In Racial Migrations, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof presents a vivid portrait of these largely forgotten migrant revolutionaries.