UAE’s Ras Al-Khaimah Festival spotlights local jewelers, artists and filmmakers

The Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival is set to run until March 31, 2020. Instagram
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Updated 12 February 2020

UAE’s Ras Al-Khaimah Festival spotlights local jewelers, artists and filmmakers

DUBAI: The UAE’s Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF) recently kicked off its eighth edition in the Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra Heritage Village — a recently restored pearling village dating back to the 17th century.

The festival brings with it a packed program that includes thought-provoking exhibitions, keynote speeches and more than 100 local and international artists hailing from 33 different countries showcasing works that range from photography to film and visual arts under this year’s theme of “Connected Communities.”

Among the participating artists is Emirati jewelry artist Azza Al-Qubaisi, who is known for her cutting-edge jewelry painstakingly handmade out of precious materials such as white gold, silver and diamonds in addition to sands, leather and palm branches.

Born in Abu Dhabi, Al-Qubaisi shared that her Emirati heritage influences a lot of her work. “Most of the work I’ve created focuses on my environment. I want to capture the stories of the past, traditions and heritage,” she said to Arab News. “I think for me it’s about discovering more about me and my identity,” she added.

Citing the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, as one of her inspirations, the artist is also behind a slew of projects that aim to foster local talent and spotlight traditional crafts. In 2006, she founded the first NGO project to develop and promote local handicrafts through “Made in UAE” shops and Lamst Ibdaa, an Abu Dhabi-based initiative that nurtures the growth of aspiring design talent by offering them the support and resources they need.

Also participating at this year’s festival is Emirati filmmaker Hamad Abdullah Saghran. The filmmaker will be screening his short film “And What’s Next?” on the last Wednesday of February and March.

“Last year’s visit to RAKFAF encouraged me to prepare this film idea because I thought it would be a great opportunity to participate in a homegrown festival in my home Ras Al-Khaimah,” shared Saghran with Arab News.

The filmmaker who directed six short films between 2008 and 2016, will be the 2020 recipient of the Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival Film Grant. “Filmmaking is all about telling stories in a visual way. It’s like painting, but with more interactive elements. So, I love to tell stories and this is why I continue to make films,” he states.

The Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival is set to run until March 31, 2020. 

Saudi designer and musician: ‘You don’t need an excuse to fail’

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi designer and musician: ‘You don’t need an excuse to fail’

  • An accomplished pianist, composer and artist Labeed Assidmi is known for his passion and hard work

DAMMAM: Saudi graphic designer, artist, musician and entrepreneur Labeed Assidmi is known for his passion and hard work.

Assidmi is a designer and art director for corporate events at Saudi Aramco. However, it’s not all he’s known for. An accomplished pianist and composer, he has been playing piano since he was a child and is often asked to perform at events. He also owns and operates the company Pinnizer, where he sells retro and Saudi-centric lapel pins.

He wants people to know that there are different levels to what he does and how he wants to be perceived. “I want to be known as a designer first, a musician second and a pin maker last,” he said.

His passion for design began with a trip to Disneyland, where he saw how effectively a logo could be used with the iconic image of Mickey Mouse. “They were so creative with it. It was everywhere; the hats, the shirts, the buses, the tickets and the food. It was never boring. I started to think about what kind of job a person could have that would allow them to create these things. I knew that that was what I wanted to do.”

After studying graphic design in the US, he returned to Saudi Arabia to pursue a career as a designer. He said that becoming a designer can unlock plenty of paths for aspiring creatives: “Design is like an airport, there are so many directions you can go in as long as you know the principles.”

His journey in music started in the fourth grade “on the half-functional keyboard that everyone had somewhere in their house during that era.” He tinkered around with it until he managed to teach himself a few simple tunes.

He started taking the piano more seriously in college, eventually composing songs.

“I always play my own songs, I don’t really like doing covers,” he said.

He finds composing and playing music cathartic, and an effective way of stretching his creative muscles without overexerting himself. “When I’m not making art, I’m making music, and vice versa. I love the piano, it’s my escape from everything,” he said.

He also supports local musicians and wants to see more people enter the field. “I do perform sometimes at my own events, but lately I’ve been trying to give local talent a chance. I know how many of them are out there that just need someone to take a chance on them and give them their big break.”

As for Pinnizer, he said that pin collecting had started growing in popularity as a pastime in the Kingdom, but he knew that there were few places to get pins with imagery familiar to his generation. “I found a gap in the market and decided to capitalize on it by creating designs with characters and symbols that were familiar to us,” he said.

Assidmi designs all the pins himself, and works with a company in China to produce molds for them, which he then sells on his website. He has created pins with iconic images of the past such as the old logos of Saudi TV and Saudi Airlines, as well as anime characters like Grendizer and Maroko.

“When people see my pins, and their voice goes up an octave when they give that nostalgic little ‘oh my God!’, I know I’ve succeeded,” he said.

He admits that balancing the triple workload and still managing to make time for himself and family is tough, but he has ways of getting around it.

He believes that compartmentalizing different aspects of your life into “pillars” can help people see the bigger picture and avoid getting too caught up in one thing.

Assidmi hopes that he can be an inspiration to future generations of Saudis, especially people who want to enter a creative field but don’t believe in themselves.

“My purpose is to leave a legacy that inspires people, to have people see what I’ve done and realize that this is something that they can do to. That’s how I want to be remembered.”

Shop Pinnizer at or follow Assidmi on Instagram @labeed and his work at and @pinnizer