Season of Art
Every year, the Al Fahidi Historical District is transformed into an enigmatic canvas for art enthusiasts. Even passers-by cannot resist the pull of the colourful set-up, and the music. When inside the venue of the Sikka Art Fair it’s almost like walking through a maze of art, where even wrong turns can lead one into courtyards of delightful visuals.
Sikka Art Fair – a flagship initiative of the Dubai Art Season held under the patronage of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice chairman of Dubai Culture - completed its eighth edition on Monday.
Over the years, the art fair has given a big platform to artists from all over the GCC - who present their perceptions and messages through visual and performing arts, music, literature and films.
Most importantly it’s about inculcating and familiarising people with the rich art of the Middle East. “It’s about providing the public with engaging artistic experiences, raising their pride in the region’s local talents, and involving them in the cultural development of our Emirate as we work towards establishing Dubai as the happiest city in the world and a home to creativity and culture,“ said Abdulla al Hammadi, acting director of projects and events at Dubai Culture.
This year at Sikka, there was a newly-added segment of Islamic art and culture. Be it Siddiqa Juma’s ‘Tawaaf’ series inspired by the Kaabah, or Yoshita Ahmed’s installation project, ‘99 names’ - the house of Islamic art showcasing diverse perspectives within the paradigm of religion and faith.
One of the key highlights of Sikka Art Fair this year, was the advent of Saudi House into the art scene. Curated by Culture-Focused Tamashee, the House
designed to reflect a courtyard from the Kingdom, showcased not only the colours of Saudi Arabia, but also looked at its cultural heritage. Not many are aware of the presence of a strong art heritage in the Kingdom or the narratives most often overlooked or unheard of. Mohammed Kazim from Tamashee, said, “The art scene is coming up in Saudi. There are many more emerging talents that require such platforms to showcase their art.” Platforms such as Sikka, therefore become an important space for discourse, where artists can present the narratives and experiences from their own countries.
In a way, the House has thrown open its door at a point in history, where all eyes are on Saudi Arabia in wake of the hitherto unimagined socio-political change. If art helps bridge the disconnect between the outside world and the reality on ground, Saudi House was an initiative in stepping away from the dark shrouds and instead showcasing the colours present inside the Kingdom. “Our objective was to show the region in a positive manner. The idea was to surprise people with the colours of Saudi Arabia and its diversity - there’s a lot that all the diverse regions of Saudi have to offer,” said Kazim.
The colourful past and traditions of the people are reflected in photographs of ancient rock art on mountains from the Tabuk Province of the Kingdom as well as the colourful embroideries and outfits of the Thaqueef tribe from the Taif region. Although art from Saudi Arabia is almost considered a novelty, its artistic heritage can be traced back to centuries. For instance, the Al Qatt art exhibited at Saudi House is an ancient form of wall art tradition from the Asir region that is carried out by women on the walls of their home.
Again, noteworthy contributions from female artists from Saudi highlight the artistic offerings of the Kingdom. Artists such as Mudi Albednah’s ‘Self’ series looks at the personification of the scattered self, caught between struggles of existence. Or, take Fatima al Mohsens’s paintings in which she depicts existential anxiety and visual beauty. There were also paintings that showcased the influence of foreign art on Saudi’s artists and art forms. Notable among them were Batoul Aljefri’s paintings.
All told, visitors who walked through Saudi House came out with a lot of material to redefine existing perceptions about the Kingdom. A visitor’s remark after a tour reflects this intellectual bewilderment. “Can you believe all this artwork came out of Saudi?” At Sikka, it was a statement through art, that there’s much more knowledge about the region awaiting to be explored.