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Tea with Culture

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


Art Dubai 2013

Otobong Nkanga, Why don’t you grow where we come from? (2012) Woven textile and Photography, inkjet print / Viscose, cashmere wool, mohair, bio cotton and laser cut forex plate. Image courtesy the artist and Lumen Travo Gallery.


The seventh edition of Art Dubai is back this week from 20th-23rd March at the Madinat Jumeirah. This year's edition will host 75 galleries from 30 countries, over half are from the Middle East and South Asia.  

But as I said before, I'm always more excited about the commissioned projects, talks and performances that take place during Art Dubai. You can see the complete programme here


Here are my top picks: 

Sculpture on the Beach 

Hassan Sharif, Weave 2, 2012 (Medium: aluminium, copper wire). Image courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates

Sculpture on the Beach is a new addition to Art Dubai, it's an exhibition of sculptural and large-scale works by 11 artists curated by Chus Martinez, Chief curator of El Museo del Barrio, formerly Documenta 13’s Head of Department. This exhibition will be located on the Mina A’Salam beach (a five-minute walk from the gallery halls and adjacent to the Art Dubai Beach Brasserie).



The Hatch

Ali Cherri, Slippage, Still from DV Video, 2007. Image courtesy of Ali Cherri. 

The Hatch returns this year with a programme curated by artist Maha Maamoun, founding board-member of the Contemporary Image Collective (CiC), Cairo.This year's programme will feature work by three artists: Ali Cherri, Hassan Khan, and Anri Sala.

From proposals sent by Art Dubai participating galleries, Maamoun selected the artists based on the strength and singularity of their work. This disparate grouping of films is tangentially linked by how they pick at nerves, words and chords: a musical score recalls a musical score, or drowns out every other sound, echoing a rising tension, and short-circuiting a conversation; a conversation cancels out all other audible sound and fleshes out the minutiae of daily interpersonal power games; and power will try to subvert a city, a body, an image, or a radio-transmission of Fairuz singing.



Commissioned Projects Joe Namy

Image via Delfina Foundation

There are several commissioned projects for Art Dubai this year, you can see the full list here, but I am really looking forward to the following projects: 

Joe Namy

Namy has spent part of his three-month residency in Dubai researching traditional song and dance, once used for ritual healing, and unique to the UAE.

Namy’s performance, entitled Transfiguration, draws upon the parallels between these ritual dances and their rhythmic connections to contemporary electronic music. 

Transfiguration will be presented as a multi-media installation including a live performance at Art Dubai on Wednesday 20 March at 7PM on the Water Terrace.


Ahmet Öğüt

Intern VIP lounge will be an exclusive space for all the unpaid interns working at the art fair. Only these volunteers, after registering at the Intern VIP Lounge's information desk, will be able to access the lounge – an exclusive space that not only provides a relaxed and entertaining ambience, but also operates as a knowledge exchange space, with a special programme of events, including meetings, presentations and film screenings.



Global Art Forum_7

Global Art Forum_6, 2012

Global Art Forum is back this year with a diverse line-up of participants, including artists, curators, musicians, strategists, thinkers and writers. This year's edition is entitled ‘It Means This’, directed by Istanbul based writer/editor HG Masters, and commissioned by writer/curator Shumon Basar.

‘It Means This’ will explore the concept of ‘definitionism’: investigating the words, terms, clichés and misunderstandings that proliferate in the art world and beyond. The Forum attempts to (re)define words, phrases and ideas we think we know, and those we need to know, to navigate the 21st century. 



Each session or element of the Forum will take on a keyword; some are terms we use every day – such as Heritage, Biography, Freezone, Score and Place (looking particularly at how the cities Lagos and Ramallah having been shaped by writers and artists).

Other terms may be less familiar – including Academese, Advert Adverts, Drone Fiction, MENA (Middle East Nervous Anxiety), or Neologism. The eclectic line-up of Forum contributors are set to pick apart these terms through talks, debates, performances, TV clips, new publications, films, music, and so much more.




This year's forum will feature over 40 contributors, including:

New participants:

Dubai-based political scientist Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla; poet and authorMourid Barghouti (I Saw Ramallah, among other books); artist and former REM lead singer Michael Stipe; writer-editors Charles Arsene-HenryBrian Kuan Wood (Editor, eflux journal) and Guy Mannes-Abbott (author, In Ramallah, Running); artists Tarek AtouiTristan BeraManal Al DowayanDominique Gonzalez-FoersterShuruq HarbHassan KhanEmeka OgbohSlavs and TatarsAla Younis; writers Elif Batuman (contributor, New Yorker), Maryam Monalisa Gharavi (Editor-at-Large, The New Inquiry), Oscar Guardiola-Rivera (author ofWhat if Latin America Ruled the World?); Lagos-based writer-editor Tolu Ogunlesi; writer/urbanist Keller Easterling (Professor, Yale University); curator-translator, and Dar Al-Ma’mun co-director, Omar Berrada; curators Reem Fadda (Associate Curator, Middle Eastern Art, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Project, and curator, National Pavilion for the UAE at the Venice Biennial), Koyo Kouoh (director, Raw Material Company, Dakar), Bisi Silva (director, CCA Lagos) and Tirdad Zolghadr (writer, based at Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College NY); New York-based anthropologist Uzma Z. Rizvi; composer and musician Andre Vida; and Doha-based analyst and commentator Tarik Yousef.

Returning participants:

Writer and artist Douglas Coupland; curator Lara Khaldi (Director, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, Ramallah); geostrategist and Director of Hybrid Reality Institute Parag Khanna; Turi Munthe, the founder of ‘citizen journalist’ newswire Demotix; Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects of the Serpentine Gallery, London, Hans-Ulrich Obrist; and the founder of Barjeel Art Foundation Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. 



Here are highlights from Art Dubai 2012. Don't miss this year's edition. I plan to be there everyday, so if you are around, come and say hello.


Art Night in Dubai on 18th March 2013

Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue

Art Nights at DIFC Gate Village

Dubai will have a double edition of Art Night happening on Monday, 18th January, where two different venues, DIFC Gate Village and Alserkal Avenue, will host gallery openings on the night.  

It's a great opportunity to go gallery hopping to enjoy some good art (or make fun of some bad art like I do with my friends).  I won't be able to go to both venues, so I'm planning to spend time at Alserkal Avenue and looking forward to a fun art night there.
I've listed some of the must see exhibitions in both venues, but you can find the full line up of exhibitions via the following links: 
Art Nights at DIFC Gate Village
Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue

Alserkal Avenue Gallery Nights from 6pm-9pm:
Lawrie Shabibi: Adel Abidin - Symphony (18th March-18th April 2013)  

Green Art Gallery: Shadi Habib Allah - Evacutaed Containers (14th March-5th May 2013) 
Shadi Habib Allah, Imprint, 2009-Ongoing, Digital print

Shelter: Richard Allenby-Pratt - Abandoned (18th March-1st May 2013)
Richard Allenby-Pratt, Abandoned series, Giraffe

STORiES Pop Up: Ethical.Design.Collective (18th-23rd March 2013)

STORiEs Pop Up: STORiEs by Ethical.Design.Collective (18th-23th March 2013)

Grey Noise: Hossein Valamanesh - Selected Works 1992-2013 (18th March-30th April 2013)
Hossein Valamanesh, Face to Face 2002, prayer caps, straw mat, mirrors, clay, 90x198x18 cm

DIFC Gate Village Art Nights from 7pm-10pm:

Ayyam Gallery: Afshin Pirhashemi  - The Wrong Women (18th March-25th April 2013)
Afshin Pirhashemi, The First-timer, 2012 - Oil on Canvas 100 X 150 cm.

Cuadro Gallery - Various Artists 

Nadine Kanso, From The Khaled Series, 2013


The Empty Quarter: Open Wounds (18th March-25th April 2013)

Rhea Karam: Series: Breathing Walls, Rockheads, 2008





Event details:
Date: 18th March 2013
Timings: Alserkal Avenue, 6pm-9pm (location map)
         DIFC Gate Village, 7pm-10pm (location map


Design Days Dubai 2013

Always/Never by United Visual Artists, 2012


The second edition of Design Days is back this week from 18th-21st March and will be held in the same venue as last year, next to Burj Khalifa in The Venue - Downtown Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard  (formerly known as Emaar Boulevard).

Design Days Dubai is dedicated to collectible and limited edition furniture and design objects. Our goal is to present, both regional and internationally, the best of design to collectors and a wide audience of design enthusiasts.

Through strong cooperation with local partners and a diverse educational programme, we aim to strengthen greater appreciation and understanding for design as a form of applied arts. 


The second edition of the fair will feature design galleries from Mexico to Melbourne, representing all six continents, plus a  series of talks, workshops, performances and film screenings. The complete line up and schedule can be found here

I quite enjoyed last year's fair and looking forwrad to seeing some beautiful objects, even if I can't really afford to buy them. 

Here are some of the objects you will see at this year's Design Days Dubai.


A million times (Time Dubai) by Humans Since 1982


Designed by Humans Since 1982 made of 288 clocks, dimension: 344cm x 180cm x 5cm 


Weighing Up The Competition by Rolf Sachs, represented by Gallery Libby Sellers, 2012


Dream Lantern by Chen Lu, 2011


Watson table (Limited edition of 8) by Paul Loebach


Sansa Armchair by Cheick Diallo 2012




Event details
Dates and timings: 18th-21st March, 4pm - 10pm (Preview - 17th March, by invitation only)
Venue: The Venue - Downtown Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, next to Burj Khalifa
Tickets: AED 50 can be purchased at the fair (by purchasing a ticket, you donate AED 25 to the World Food Programme). Children & students (<18 years) and university or college groups can enter for free. 


SIKKA 2013 - The Culturist at House 9 


Following up on my post about SIKKA, here's a separate post with more information about my involvement in this year's fair. I am happy and proud to say that The Culturist is taking part in SIKKA this year.

Yours truly was commissioned to put together a project related to this blog and during the fair, from 14th-24th March, I will have a house (House no. 9) that will be an extension of the blog, a physical presence of the blog.


House 9  will cover major themes from the blog such as films, music, travel, photography and the 1980s in three different rooms:
Screen | Travel | Reminisce 

Here's the write up by SIKKA:

The  is an independent blog run by Hind Mezaina that offers a unique voice in the cultural sphere of Dubai and the region. It contains visually stimulating images, videos and sounds. It also aims to showcase creative talent and inspire its readers.

The Culturist is creating an offline experiential transformation of the blog in House 9 that will allow visitors to interact with the space and each other. House 9 will cover major themes from the blog such as films, music, travel, photography and the 1980s.


During the 10 days of the fair, you can expect the following: 

Room 1 - Screen
A selection of short films and featurettes, (that have been shared on this blog or clips I recently found online or through friends) will be screened in a dark room, where you can sit comfortably and switch off from everything else around you. I hope the clips you will see will bring you joy and inspiration as they did to me. 


Room 2 - Travel
This room will feature ephemera that I've collected from my travels over the past few years. 

Room 3 - Reminisce
This room will feature more ephemera, but this time, from Dubai. See a selection of posters, flyers, ticket stubs from events dating back to 2004. It's to showcase the cultural scene has been active for a while - even if it has been a slow moving scene at some times. Digging these items that have been stored all over the place in my room was a joy, because it brought back lots of good memories. I really do hope you will like what you see. 

The room will also have some old music clips (Khaleeji, Egyptian, Lebanese, European and Bollywood), screening on a wall. It's some of the music I remember listening to and watched on TV in the late 1970s/early 1980s. It was great fun finding these clips online. Here's one example. You've got to come to the house to see more.

Dalida - Salma Ya Salama




I've been busy trying to set up the house for the past few days, and testing equipment like projectors and DVD players. Here's what the house looks like from the open courtyard. I will share more photos when everything is set up.

I am quite excited (and nervous) about this project. If you are in the neighbourhood, please drop by and say hello. 






SIKKA will be on from 14th - 24th March. There are several options on how to get there, metro, bus, taxi - location map and details can be found here

Fair timings: 
Thursday 14 March 18:00 – 00:00
Friday   15 March 16:00 – 00:00
Saturday 16 March 12:00 – 00:00
Sunday   17 March 14:00 – 22:00
Monday   18 March 14:00 – 22:00
Tuesday  19 March 14:00 – 22:00
Wednesday20 March 14:00 – 22:00
Thursday 21 March 14:00 – 00:00
Friday   22 March 16:00 – 00:00
Saturday 23 March 12:00 – 00:00
Sunday   24 March 18:00 – 00:00


SIKKA Art Fair 2013


SIKKA* Art Fair is an artist-led fair of commissioned work located in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (formally known as Bastakiya). 

SIKKA was founded by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and has been running since 2011. Its aim is to support home-grown creativity and showcase artistic talent based in the United Arab Emirates.

This year’s edition is on from 14th-24th March and will include over 70 UAE-based artists and 14 multidisciplinary initiatives and collectives, plus an array of special projects, workshops, panel discussions, artist led walks, live music, performances and film screenings.  

The fair has been growing year on year, and I'm happy to say that I am taking part this year (a separate post about my project is coming up right after this post).  

The complete line up of artists and projects, plus the SIKKA 2013 Programme and workshops can be found on SIKKA's website. I strongly urge you have a look and block some time in your calendar for this fair. 


The opening night is on Thursday, 14th March from 6.00pm till midnight. It will be a fun night to meander through Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood to check out all the work in the lovely houses. There will be food and drinks, musical performances and an overall good vibe. 

If you've never been to SIKKA or Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, here's a clip from last year's SIKKA to give you an a feel of what to expect.



Fair timings:

Thursday 14 March 18:00 – 00:00
Friday   15 March 16:00 – 00:00
Saturday 16 March 12:00 – 00:00
Sunday   17 March 14:00 – 22:00
Monday   18 March 14:00 – 22:00
Tuesday  19 March 14:00 – 22:00
Wednesday20 March 14:00 – 22:00
Thursday 21 March 14:00 – 00:00
Friday   22 March 16:00 – 00:00
Saturday 23 March 12:00 – 00:00
Sunday   24 March 18:00 – 00:00


* SIKKA draws its name from the alleyways between the historic houses of Dubai, and serves as a metaphor that befits the young and upcoming artists who seek to establish their creative and professional paths through their participation in the fair. 


Sharjah Biennial 11 - 13th March-13 May 2013



If you've never been to Sharjah, you must know that it is the most cultured Emirate in the UAE, it's less about the style and more about the substance. Admittedly, I don't go here as much as I should, but hoping to spend time there during Sharjah Biennial 11 which starts on 13th March and go on till 13th May 2013.


The title of this year's Sharjah Biennial is "Re:emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography", where its curator Yuko Hasegawa proposes a Biennial "that reassess the Westerncentrism of knowledge in modern times and reconsiders the relationship between the Arab world, Asia, the Far East, through North Africa and Latin America."



Hasegawa was inspired by the courtyard in Islamic architecture, in particular the historical courtyards of Sharjah, where elements of both public and private life intertwine, and where the objective political world and the introspective subjective space intersect and cross over.

The courtyard is also seen as a plane of experience and experimentation—an arena for learning and critical thinking of a discursive and embodied kind. It marks a generative space for the production of new awareness and knowledge. Within the network of intensifying international and globalising links, the courtyard as an experiential and experimental space comes to mirror something of Sharjah as a vital zone of creativity, transmission, and transformation.  (via


Sharjah Biennial 11 will inlclude more than 100 artists, architects, filmmakers, musicians and performers whose artworks and practices will "resonate with strands of the curatorial theme: the complexity and diversity of cultures and societies; spatial and political relations; notions of new forms of contact, dialogue, and exchange; and production through art and architectural practices of new ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling".
You can see the full line up of artists, musicians and filmmakers here.


The Opening Week Progamme will run from 13th-17th March and will include performances, films, lectures and the annual March Meeting (a symposium featuring thematic sessions and moderated panel discussions that will reflect on and contexualise the concept of this year's biennial). 

I am quite excited about the film and music programme during this week. Here's why:


Film Programme

Janie Geiser, The Fourth Watch, 2000, Courtesy of the Artist

The film programme is curated by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the 2010 Palme d'Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

It will feature programming by leading figures in the film industry, including one of favourite actresses, Tilda SwintonSteve Anker, Dean of the School of Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Mehelli Modi, Founder of Second Run DVD; Alcino Leite Neto, editor; Khavn De La Cruz, poet, pianist, filmmaker; Jean-Pierre Rehm, theorist, Festival Director, FIDMarseille; Ali Jaafar, Executive Director, Independent Film Division, Quinta Communications, London. 

The programme will include panel discussions and evening screenings that will take place in the Mirage City Cinema, a cinema-architecture space by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Ole Scheeren, commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation.


Cao Guimarães, Soul of the Bone (A Alma do Osso), 2004, still, Courtesy of the Artist


Thursday, 14th March - Mirage City Cinema, Maurouth Square
8.30pm-9.30pm Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Ole Scheerin lead a discussion featuring the film programmers
9.30pm-10.30pm Screening programmed by Tilda Swinton
11.00pm-1.00am Screening programmed by Jean- Pierre Rehm   

Friday, 15th March - Mirage City Cinema, Maurouth Square  
8.30pm-9.30pm Ali Jaafar leads a discussion on Sharjah Biennial 11 commissioned films from the Middle East
9.30pm-11.30pm Screening programmed by Ali Jaafar
11.30pm-1.00am Screening programmed by Steve Anker 
1.00am-2.15am Screening programmed by Alcino Leite Neto   

Saturday, 16th March - Mirage City Cinema, Maurouth Square  
8.30pm-9.30pm Khavn de la Cruz leads a discussion on Sharjah Biennial 11 commissioned films from the Philippines 
9.30om-11.30pm Screenings programmed by Khavn De La Cruz  

Sunday, 17th March - Mirage City Cinema, Maurouth Square  
9.30pm-11.30pm Screenings programmed by Mehelli Modi 
11.30pm-1.15am Screenings programmed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul 



Music and Performance Programme 

Tarek Atoui

The music programme will include international and regional artists including sound artist Tarek Atoui who will orchestrate a series of new commissions by more than ten international musicians, including percussionists, and a commissioned solo performance by artist Hassan Khan

But I am particularly looking forward to seeing alva noto's Univrs (uniscope version), an audio-visual performance with a special appearance by Ryuichi Sakamoto


In his work, alva noto seeks to overcome the separation of art forms and genres to create an integrated artistic approach. His 2011 album univrs addresses the conceptual differentiation of a universal language (“universum/universal” as unity, entirety).

The visualisation of univrs (uniscope version) – an expanded screen projection setup – combines a variety of modules on a digital level that demonstrate different methods of audio analysis. The resulting signal processing is shown as a relay structure and is performed in real time. Each module can be zoomed in on, enabling greater visual detail.  (via


You can expect to hear and see something like this:



I saw alva noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto last month at Sonar Reykjavik during my visit to Iceland, and can't believe I will get a chance to see them again. It will be a very special performance and strongly recommend you don't miss this. 

Here's a clip featuring alva noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto from Sonar 2012 to give you a taster of what to expect.






The complete Sharjah Biennial 11 calendar or evensts can be found here. Sharjah Biennial 11 opening hours during Opening Week 13th-17th March:

Sunday to Thursday 9:00am – 9:00pm
Friday 10:00am – 12:00pm and 3:00pm – 10:00pm 

Contact details and location map can be found here.



Maraya Art Night in Sharjah - 11th March 2013


Maraya Art Centre in Al Qasba in Sharjah will be hosting an Art Night on Monday, 11th March. 

The night will include a showcase of several commissioned projects and the opening of Barjeel Art Foundation's new exhibition RE: Orient
 - Investigating Modernism in the Arab world 1950s-70s which promises to a very important and impressive exhibition. 


Here's what to expect on the night: 


Blueprint by Adel Abidin
Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba
 Block E,  Maraya Art Gallery, 3rd Floor

Adel Abidin - Blueprint

Pertaining to informal architecture, Finnish-Iraqi artist Adel Abidin will present 'Blueprint' curated by Sara Raza.

The exhibition presents a large-scale interactive drawing and sound installation that transforms Maraya's main exhibition gallery into a mock factory. The work explores the manufactured and globalised nature of 'Arab' identity in the post Arab Spring era by using the language of an architectural blueprint drawing. 

The exhibition will run until 15th June, 2013. 




Naturally Re-oriented by Khalid Shafar 
Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba 
Block E, Ground floor

Khalid Shafar - 
Naturally Re-oriented

Naturally Re-oriented is a special design orientated project by Emirati furniture and objects designer Khalid Shafar.

The installation explores the use of natural resources and static form. Inspired by visual elements found in nature, this project takes viewers on a journey about recycling and the past.  


Change by Ayman Yossri Daydban
Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba
, Block E, Building Facade 

Thuma Tatawar El Amr, Ayman Yossri Daydban, 2009 RC Print Diasec mounted on Dibond 3 + 1AP H62 x W110 cm

Saudi Arabian contemporary artist Ayman Yossri Daydban will present a cinematic billboard project by on the outdoor facade of Maraya Art Centre.

This new work taken from film stills from popular Middle Eastern cinema explore non-linear narrative and take on new meanings within an art, architecture and cinematic context. 

The project aims to expand the definition, scope , and application of public art and is part of the artists's Public Project titled "Change” which will also feature works in public spaces in Dubai. 


The Seven Black Boxes of Observational Activity by Alaa Edris
Al Qasba Walkways, Al Qasba


Emirati artist Alaa Edris is renowned for producing research projects that explore social issues, semiotics and tradition within contemporary UAE culture.

She has created a site specific installation of black boxes placed throughout Al Qasba. Although seemingly ordinary, these boxes are in fact discreet audio visual recording and filming devices, which will record and collect public data.

The premise of the project is to explore the themes of privacy and surveillance with the artist accumulating data for  a future curated exhibition at the Maraya Art Centre. 


RE: Orient
 - Investigating Modernism in the Arab world 1950s-70s 
Barjeel Art Foundation, Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba, 
Block E, 2nd floor

Group of figures in a village, Samir Rafi, Oil on canvas 60 x 80 cm, 1966

Re: Orient is a new exhibition that will highlight modern works by key artists with roots in the Arab world, and will cover three decades of art production from the 1950s to 1970s.

Marking a critical period of both politically and socially, artists of the modern era were involved in an international exchange of ideas, often fusing traditional artistic approaches with elements of avant-garde movements including Surrealism, Cubism, and Fauvism.

The exhibition will run until 22nd November, 2013. 






Event details
Date and timing: Monday, 11th March at 7pm
Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba, Block E, Sharjah (location map)




Save these dates - Art Month in Dubai 

Image via Art Dubai's Facebook page


It's March which means the art and culture crowd in Dubai is gearing itself for a very busy month.

I usually refer to March in Dubai as a month of art and culture on steroids, and all I can hope for is that I have the time and energy to attend everything I want.

Expect detailed posts for each event during the coming week. In the meantime, save these dates if you want to check out the art scene in Dubai (and Sharjah) this month. It's going to be hectic, but I am sure it will be fun. 


13th March-13 May 2013 - 
Sharjah Biennial 11 


The 11th edition of Sharjah Biennial will start on 13th March and will run till 13th May 2013. The opening week will feature an exciting line up of events including film screenings, performances, talks and tours. You can find more details here.

14th-24th March 2013 - SIKKA

This year's edition of SIKKA will see work by over 70 UAE-based artists, 14 multidisciplinary initiatives and collectives, plus an array of special projects, panel discussions, live music, performances and film screenings, taking over Bastakiya, recently renamed to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.

I am happy and excited to say that The Culturist is one of the initiatives at this year's SIKKA, so expect a separate post about this.  

18th-21st March 2013 - Design Days Dubai 

Mutant Bench by Claudio Colucci, 2010, Wood, foam, polyurethane coated, 64 cm x 72 cm 146 cm

After a very successful debut last year, Design Days Dubai is back with a fair that will showcase collectible and limited edition furniture and design objects. There will also be some talks, film screenings and performances.  

18th March 2013 - Art Night in Alserkal Avenue and DIFC

Image via Alserkal Avenue's Facebook page

The galleries in DIFC and Alserkal Avenue will host gallery openings on this night. It's a shame both venues are doing this at the same night, as it will be difficult to check out the galleries properly between 6pm-10pm in both venues.

I wish this Art Night would go on later than 10pm to give us enough time to visit the two venues. I for one will probably end up spending more time in Alserkal Avenue. The atmosphere is usually a lot more relaxed there. 



20th-23rd March 2013 - Art Dubai

"Head" Series (No. 6) by Taiye Idahor, 2012 - Newspaper, film cartridge and acrylic paint on wood, 61x61cm. Courtesy of the artist.

The seventh edition of Art Dubai is packed with an extensive programme that includes commissioned projects and performances, artists' and curators' residencies, educational workshops, the unveiling of works by the winners of the annual Abraaj Capital Art Prize and the critically acclaimed Global Art Forum.

I really enjoyed last year's edition of Art Dubai, especially the Global Art Forum , so I can't wait for this year's edition. 


The Unknown by Gayathri


Gayathri, one of my favourite Dubai based musicians has released her debut album, The Unknown.

Glad to see this this talented and hard working musician, singer and songwriter has put together something that looks and sounds so poetic. The whole project has been a collaboration with several musicians and artists. 

You can stream the whole album or buy it online here. If you like what you hear, please do buy it. Let's support independent artists as much as we can. 


These are my favourite songs from the album:


Champion of Broken Hearts



Bed and Blanket



The Unknown


Pieces of Me



Here are a couple of video clips that share some behind the scenes into the making of The Unknown.


The Making of The Unknown 
This featurette is an inside look at the writing, recording and production of the duet on the album produced by Reiner Erlings featuring singer Hamdan Al Abri and Haruka Horii on violin.



The Unknown - Behind the Artwork 
The artwork of The Unknown is the result of a collaboration between four visual artists (Christoffer RelanderEkta SaranEmbrahim Mirmalek and Tushar Menon) who didn't meet during the process of the making. Find out how it all came together in this excerpt from the documentary about the making of the album.  



Pecha Kucha Dubai - Unlucky Volume 13



Pecha Kucha Dubai has been going on since 2007 and over the years it's had some an interesting and memorable line up of presenters. I was fortunate to present at the second volume and was amongst some good presenters

If you are not familiar with Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-chak-cha and is Japanese for “chatter”), it originated in Tokyo, Japan 10 years ago, devised and shared by Klein Dytham architecture. It follows a 20x20 format which allows each of presenter to showcase 20 images – each shown for exactly 20 seconds. This gives the presenter 6 minutes and 40 seconds to present their latest creative project, idea or hobby. 

I've not attended all of the Pecha Kucha Dubai sessions (and heard the standards have been slipping over the past couple of years), but out of ones I've been to, these are the ones I recall and remember as my favourites (there are more, but I can't list them all): 

Yes, there are hits and misses in every Pecha Kucha night, but all of the above stood out for me because I saw good work, original ideas and none of it felt self promotional. 

Pecha Kucha Dubai - Volume no. 13 took place on 23rd February at The Archive Dubai. I attended it with high expectations and left feeling very disappointed. I was wondering how involved were the organisers (Traffic, s*uce, The Third Line and The Pavilion Downtown Dubai) in putting together this edition and why such a poor edition compared to some very good ones in the early days of Pecha Kucha Dubai. 

The night felt like a walking/talking advertorial. I was waiting to see the word 'sponsored by' come on the screen any time. The word 'inspiring' was thrown around a lot, but the whole event left me feeling anything but inspired.

Filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour who presented Satwa Stories at the third Pecha Kucha Dubai said it best when he posted the following on his Facebook page (he was kind enough to give me permission to add his words here):
"Last night's Pecha Kucha was simply troubling. A couple of inspiring and quirky presentations on intellect and sustainable living, and then a lot of self-congratulatory oration by businesses. 

The partners on PK might wanna look back at the glorious editions that featured photographers, architects, and fresh ideas that were new to Dubai before they cede this event to self-promotion. It felt like a commercial break on local TV many times." 

A handful of presenters shared some new and creative ideas, but overall, the night felt quite commercialised and non of the presenters challenged the format of presenting. Most were just reading off a sheet of paper, (a big no-no when it comes to presenting and personally a pet peeve when it comes to presentations).

Here's a recap of the 10 presenters, their topics and my thoughts:

The Moving Museum by Aya Mousawi
Described as a non-profit organisation that will travel around making Dubai its first stop on 18th March at DIFC, the Moving Museum and will bring us a 'groundbreaking show of international contemporary art'.  

There's something very presumptous when organisations use the word 'museum' for something that is really not a museum. The Moving Museum is really just a pop up gallery and Aya Mousawi's presentation made it sound like it was doing the Dubai audience a favour by bringing us contemporary art via this 'moving museum' because there are no museums here. 

After Dubai, the Moving Museum will go to Venice during the Venice Biennale and then to London for Frieze, so the tour just feels like it's latching itself on to big events for publicity and not out of the kindness of their hearts to educate us about contemporary art. I read an article a few weeks ago about the Moving Museum and I am slightly skeptical about it, but I hope to be proven wrong, so might report back later this month. But the Pecha Kucha Dubai presentation was just a pat on the back about how the Moving Museum is bring contemproary art to Dubai. 

Also this was one of the images that was part of the presentation. I'm sorry, but I cannot take anyone seriously if they present this as art. 

MOJE SABZ, 2009, Soheila Sokhanvari. Taxidermy Horse, jesmonite, fiberglass, car paint, and mixed media.

The Fridge and Music Culture by Shelley Frost
The program described the talk would ask us 'are we ready to challenge our perception of the performing arts'. I didn't get that from the presentation, instead, it felt like Shelley Frost, the director of The Fridge, was sharing with us a prepared mission statement about The Fridge and it's role in Dubai. I am a fan of The Fridge but was quite disappointed with this presentation.  

Shelley Frost could have really played with the 20x20 format and have performers from The Fridge be part of the presentation to illustrate and challenge our perceptions of performance art. We've had musicians, singers and dancers performing using the 20x20 format in previous Pecha Kucha nights and it just makes things less predictable. Of all the presenters that night, Shelley Frost could've been the one with a very different and entertaining presentaton.   

Image via The Fridge's Facebook page

Jones the Grocer by James Wamae
This was the worst offender of the night. Jones the Grocer is a restaurant described as a high end deli and the presentation was basically a 101 marketing session. James Wamae started off by saying he read about Jones the Grocer in Singapore in Wallpaper magazine and he got in touch with the owner and asked if he can open one in Abu Duabi. He then went on talking about branding and customer experience and their expansion plans. How this presentation slipped into the Pecha Kuca Dubai line up is beyond me. 


The Dinner Club 57 by Noor and Buthaina 
Noor and Buthaina organise 'an underground supperclub' which isn't really that underground because it's been getting a lot of press coverage lately. It was interesting to see how they convert some unsual spots like construction sites, an empty swimming pool and an old school bus into beautifully decorated spaces to host their dinners. But they never really made it clear how they go about inviting people to these dinners. Noor and Buthaina also talked about a new restaurant/cafe they want to open in Abu Dhabi, so I suspect the Dinner Club is their way of advertising their upcoming restaurant in Abu Dhabi.  

Image via The Dinner Club 57 Facebook page

Wild Guanabana by Omar Samra and Marwa Fayed
Omar Samra started Wild Guanabana, a company that organises adventure holidays and he met his wife Marwa Fayed at one of the mountain climbing trips organised by his company. They both talked about inspiration, quitting their high paying day jobs, purusing their dreams and how to live a successful and fulfilled life. I respect and admire anyone that follows their dreams, but this presentation was a bit on the cheesy side and we could've settled for a few slides about it.  

Everest Cancer Climb by Fayrouz Zghoul
Another presentation about mountain climbing, inspiration and making a change. Fayrouz Zghoul also talked about creating awareness and raising money for the King Hussein Cancer Foundation. I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the audience that was thinking not another presentation about climbers and inspiration and I actually think Pecha Kucha did Fayrouz Zghoul a disservice by having two presentations about climbing, inspiration and life changing experiences in one night.   

Two separate presenters that didn't have anything to sell were by artist Deniz Ulster's Metaphysics who gave us a "short peek into the history of metaphyiscs and different opinions on what the world is made out of"; and Majid Al Qassemi's Secret Life of Vets who gave us an insight into what it takes to become veterinarian. No products or company names were mentioned, they just talked about subjects they were passionate about. I personally didn't love the topics, but at least theirs felt like it fit the spirit of Pecha Kucha.  

Permaculture by Gaina Dunsire
This was an educational session, Gaina Dunsire explained what is permaculture and her aim to transform an open-air amphitheatre in the school she works for into a food forest, and to have a space for the students to enjoy in the shade and learn about the environment. She shared an artist impression of what the food forest will look like and wish I had something like that in my school. Hope Gaina Dunsire succeeds and gets this food forest built. 

Image via 

IngeniousED by 
Alison Schofield and Francesca McGeary
Alison and Francesoca are educational consultants who are trying to change the education system. They were the last presenters and by then I really did switch off, so I am not sure what changes they are proposing, but I remember seeing a slide on the screen that said they want to raise USD 1,000,000 in 30 days!

Pecha Kucha encourages everyone to submit, but there really should be a line drawn on what can/cannot be presented, and the responsibility lies in the selection process by the organisers. They need to tighten up the process, find people with new creative and fresh ideas, and more importantly, people that can present well. Not someone that says how nervous they are to present in front of the audience (as it happened with a few speakers during the night), if you don't like presenting, then don' apply for things like this).

The following is taken from Pecha Kucha's FAQ section: 
What makes a good PechaKucha?
Good PechaKucha presentations are the ones that uncover the unexpected -- unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip.

Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different, and they turn each PechaKucha Night into “a box of chocolates.” 

That's the spirit of Pecha Kucha and hope the Pecha Kucha Dubai organisers can bring back this spirit when they select speakers for the next edition. 

Pecha Kucha Dubai has been going on for six years and anything that goes on for that long in this city is a feat on its own, so the quality needs improve over time and not the other way around.