Follow The Culturist
Tea with Culture

A podcast about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


Gaya - The Boys Who Cried Love


Dubai based singer-songwriter Gaya recently launched her latest music video for The Boys Who Cried Love. She has been working long and hard to create this video with a group of talented people, and has been documenting it and sharing behind the scenes for the past couple of months through a series of short videos titled #CollabOfLove.

I've featured Gaya's music on this blog before (here and here). She is a deep romantic and for this latest video, she has given centre stage to a giant heart.


Here's the video. You can listen to and buy more of Gaya's music here


Crowdfunding - Zawiyah Gallery & Studios in Abu Dhabi


Despite the existing number of art institutions, museums and commercial galleries across the UAE, we lack affordable artist studio spaces for artists based in the United Arab Emirates.

The couple of artist studio spaces that come to mind are invite only (Sharjah Art Foundation), not very affordable, especially for artists that don't have a regular income (Tashkeel in Dubai). There is alo Abu Dhabi Art Hub, but I've never visited so can't comment on it.

I often keep hearing of initiatives to provide affordable studio spaces for artists in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but till now have not seen anything come to fruition. So I was glad to see Russell Hamilton, Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University (Abu Dhabi) and founder/co-partner of Zawiyah Gallery & Studios trying to create this much needed space by launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money.  Hopefully this can trigger similar projects across the UAE.


Zawiyah Gallery & Studios (Zawiyah means a corner or a nook in English) "was born out of a need to provide young talented emerging Emirati artists a space or a “corner/nook” to create, meet, discuss, and exhibit their art" and will be located in The Mina warehouse area in Abu Dhabi.

With limited opportunities for recent art graduates, there was a need for another viable option for these artists, either directly working in Zawiyah studio spaces, exhibiting their work in the gallery, developing and offering creative workshops, establishing internship opportunities, and working on collaborative projects with local community organizations and educational institutions. 

All monies raised will go directly to paying for the build-out costs of the studio spaces and gallery; 11 studios spaces, 1 gallery, arts library, artists wood/metal shop, community space for public arts related workshops/classes, and first year rental costs. 

The studio rental will pay for the warehouse rental in the subsequent years.  If we don't reach our goal, the monies raised will go to paying the rent for the space and further funds will be sought to finish build out. 


Below is a video about the project. Donations start from USD 20 and rewards include a free workshop, acknowledgement as a contributor to name a few. Whether you are an artist in Abu Dhabi that would find tihs space useful for you or part of the art community in the UAE, please support this. Here's the link to read more and to donate:





BBC Arabic Festival 2017 - Call for Submissions

After two successful editions in 2014 and 2015, the BBC Arabic Festival will be back in 2017, taking place between 24th - 30th March at the BBC's iconic art-deco Radio Theatre in central London. 

The festival is looking for a diverse range of work (film, documentary or journalism piece) from across the Middle East, by both Arab and non-Arab, professional and amateur filmmakers and journalists and there's an open call to submit work made after 1st January 2015. The deadline to submit is 30th September 2016.

After two stellar years, we are proud to have garnered a reputation for presenting bold films by established and first-time filmmakers. The festival screens short films and documentaries about the dramatic social and political changes taking place in the Arab world today.

Through our open call to the public, we seek a bold and diverse range of filmmaking from across the Middle East, by Arab and non-Arab, professional and amateur filmmakers.

The festival runs as a competition, judged by a panel of journalism and film experts and practitioners, who will present an award to a winner in each category.

BBC Arabic offers the Young Journalist Award to a non-fiction filmmaker aged 18 to 30. The Award comprises of a programme of bespoke training, mentoring and equipment. There is also the potential for their next project to be aired on BBC Arabic TV and presented by them at the next Festival. This year, BBC Arabic Festival will introduce for the first time an award dedicated to the overall Best Work in Journalism to a non-fiction submission.


More details on how to submit can be found here. Belo are highlights from BBC Arabic Festival 2015:



The Culturist Recommends - Exhibitions in July/August 2016

Christo & Andrew - from Parataxic Distortion exhibition at East Wing
Summer time in Dubai sees a decreased number of new exhibition openings, but there are a few ongoing exhibitions running all summer. Here are five exhibitions (the last two have been listed in previous months) that you can visit between now and August.

Click on the title of each exhibition below if you'd like to read more.



Gallery: DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Dates: Until 31st July 2016

Khalid Mezaina - Television of the Month, 15 sec single-channel stop motion video installation

Ramadinzation explores artists and designers' personal versus collective memories of Ramadan, reflecting on their own significant memories and experiences of Ramadan. Against increasing corporatisation of Ramadan, these personal and artistic re-interpretations highlight many common and shared experiences of the holy month by incorporating recognisable elements such as Ramadan "musalsalat" (Khalid Mezaina), the iftar table (Fatima Albudoor), or being on one's best behavior (Safwan Subzwari).


Parataxic distortion by Christo & Andrew
Gallery: East Wing, Dubai
Dates: Until 1st September 2016
Summer hours in July: 10am - 2pm, Saturday - Thursday

Working across photography, mixed media and film, Doha based artists, Christto & Andrew have been breaking boundaries with their bold compositions since forming their artistic union in 2012. Colourful and daring, the pair works in partnership to produce a stream of hyperrealism that blends humour and portraiture while generating strong statements that challenge vapid and misleading stereotypes about the Gulf region.

Traditional ideas about photography are continually being challenged with the incorporation of new tools and methods, including widespread uses of appropriation and performance, paving the way for radical changes in how we conceive of this art form.

Their practice employs an evocative contemporary narrative that is fresh and exciting, with compositions that dabble in sarcasm and the fantastic presenting an alternative viewpoint on recent developments in the Gulf, defying any attempts by the main stream to pigeonhole them, or their reflections on the region.


Made in Tashkeel
Gallery: Tashkeel, Dubai
Dates: Until 1st September 2016

Emma Pathere - Selfie

Made in Tashkeel is an annual exhibition showcasing the works of Tashkeel members, workshop participants and recent exhibiting artists. The exhibition celebrates the on-going practice of members that makes up the creative and communal atmosphere within the art organisation.


Home Ground
Gallery: Barjeel Art Foundation, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah
Dates: Until 1st September 2016

Manal Al Dowayan - Suspended Together – Standing Doves
The connection one feels to place is an abstract notion, often spoken of in terms of memories, habits, rituals, and experiences. It is elusive, yet always present. Home Ground addresses the struggles associated with navigating geo-political barriers, and explores ways in which identity is shaped by one’s relationship with a particular geography.

The works presented in this exhibition have relevance beyond their individual contexts, touching upon themes and experiences that resonate on a global scale.

The Short Century
Museum: Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah
Dates: Until 24th December 2016

Seif Wanly - Oil on panel, 58.5 x 71 cm, 1953

Historical periods are not defined by calendar dates, but by significant events that mark the end of one era and the beginning of the next. The 20th Century is “The Short Century,” a term popularised by the historian Eric Hobsbawm for an era that saw many of the most dramatic and extreme shifts in human history.

This era was witness to the most violent wars, the largest human migrations, the rapid expansion of cities (now the largest centres of human life), the dominance of mechanised industry, and the rapid rise, conflict, and collapse of expansive ideologies that underpinned them.

The Short Century begins in the European context with the First World War in 1914, and ends in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. In the Middle East, the Century bears parallel borders: the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) or the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1920) marks its beginning, and the Gulf War (1990-1991) marks its conclusion. Each end demarcates stark shifts in politics, society, and cultural production.

This exhibition explores a number of artistic narratives in the Arab world, from representations of landscape and portraiture, responses to social and political developments, and the rise of nationalisms. As counterpoint alongside these expressions are the developments of abstraction – tajreed – and hurufiyya (an indigenous lettrism).




Links to the previous months:
The Culturist Recommends - Exhibitions in January 2016
The Culturist Recommends - Exhibitions in February 2016
The Culturist Recommends - Exhibitions in March 2016
The Culturist Recommends - Exhibitions in April 2016

The Culturist Recommends - Exhibitions in May 2016


Cinema Akil - A Hard Day's Night film screenings in July

Last month saw the launch of Cinema Akil's A Hard Day's Night summer film screenings. Here's the line up for this month, the screenings take place at the Cinema Room in A4 Space at Alserkal Avenue


13th, 14th, 15th July 2016 at 7.00pm

Directed by Jamshid Bahmani
2004 | 26 min | Farsi | Iran | G | Documentary, Short

 ‘Handmade’ is a documentary shot in a glass blower’s not far from Tehran. The film not only shows the craftsmen’s difficult working conditions but also the delicate fruit of their labour.


Directed by Vahid Vakilifar

2010 | 84 min | Azeri, Farsi, Kurdish | Iran | General | Drama

Ghobad, Jahan and Nezam, three men in pursuit of a better life, leave home and head for Oslouyeh, one of the richest gas producing regions in the south of Iran.

However, the difficult living conditions together with the low salaries oblige them and others to find shelter along the disused sections of the pipeline. The group of workers manage to create an atmosphere of camaraderie despite the difficult conditions with which they are faced.



20th, 21st, 22nd July 2016 at 7.00pm

Two Days, One Night
Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
2014 | 95 min | French | Belgium, Francy, Italy | PG | Drama

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.



27th, 28th, 29th July 2016 at 7.00pm 

Modern Times
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
1936 | 87 min | English | USA | G | Comedy, Drama

Chaplins last ‘silent’ film, filled with sound effects, was made when everyone else was making talkies. Charlie turns against modern society, the machine age, and progress. Firstly we see him frantically trying to keep up with a production line, tightening bolts. He is selected for an experiment with an automatic feeding machine, but various mishaps leads his boss to believe he has gone mad, and Charlie is sent to a mental hospital.

When he gets out, he is mistaken for a communist while waving a red flag, sent to jail, foils a jailbreak, and is let out again. We follow Charlie through many more escapades before the film is out.



- Schedules are subject to change, please check our website for updates.
- Screenings are free, open to the public and are on a first-come-first-seated basis.
- Please note the ratings before bringing children or underage adults to the screenings.


Happy Eid Al Fitr 2016


Wishing everyone celebrating Eid Al Fitr a happy holiday. World news events has been quite distressing for the past few weeks and personally for me it is hard to feel positive about the world. Racism, xenophobia, regular bombings and killings in neighbouring countries, religion tarnished by violence.

The only time the world feels slightly better and bearable is when I'm with loved ones or watching films. Otherwise everything feels bleak.

Hope you are doing what you love and surrounded by family and friends to celebrate this holiday.


RIP Abbas Kiarostami

Image via Mubi
Acclaimed Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami passed away last night. I was quite sad to read the news. There's been a flood of tributes and articles being shared on Twitter. When the world loses a great artist, the only consolation is that his/her work will still be around to be loved and cherished.

I will share some of my favourite links and tributes in a separate post, but for now, I'd like to share some of Kiarostami's photography which was just as poetic as his films. This is from his Rain series, and a reminder of his iconic car scenes from his films.

RIP Abbas Kiarostami
(22nd June 1940 - 4th July 4 2016) 

Cinema at the Space - July 2016

Here's the line up of films screening at Cinema at The Space this month. The screenings are free to attend, but you must RSVP in advance.


Saturday, 2nd July 2016


Monday, 4th July 2016


Saturday, 9th July 2016


Monday, 11th July 2016


Wednesday, 13th July 2016


Saturday, 16th July 2016

Monday, 18th July 2016


Wednesday, 20th July 2016


Saturday, 23rd July 2016


Monday, 25th July 2016


Wednesday, 27th July 2016


Saturday, 30th July 2016



Happy birthday Isabelle Adjani

Happy birthday Isabelle Adjani. Hope she's dancing at 61 just as she was dancing here in The Repentant (2002).


RIP Bill Cunningham

Photograph by Clint Spaulding / Patrick Mcmullan


"I’m looking for something that has beauty." Bill Cunningam

If you haven't already, you should watch Bill Cunningham New York. Also spend time watching and listening to his weekly video series for The New York Times.

RIP Bill Cunningham (13th March 1929 -  25th June 2016)



[image via The New Yorker]