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The Lost Empire by Fouad El Khoury at The Third Line


The Lost Empire by the prolific Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury is the latest exhibition at The Third Line. The exhibition features photos of abandoned soviet military bases where he visited dozens of military bases in Poland, Hungary, Estonia and East Germany between 2010 and 2011.

Most were aviation fields; others served separate purposes. And despite having being told there was nothing to photograph there, Fouad found the abandoned desolation far more captivating.

Deserted and invaded by nature, a force far more primal and stronger than weapons of war, the bases have become unserviceable areas of land. The utter silence and emptiness left Fouad the only protagonist in the plot, searching for abandoned stories, and his only ally was light, without which nothing could be seen. 


I got a chance to meet Elkoury at The Third Line a few weeks ago and we talked about his career, photography and Dubai. Here are some of the highlights.

About Dubai
In addition to photographing in various cities around the world, Elkoury has been documenting Dubai for almost 10 years, you can see some of his work here. It's been a few years since he came to Dubai, so during this visit, he used every chance he had to photograph the city, despite the heat.

When I asked him what his impressions are of Dubai during this visit, he said he hoped there would have been an organic growth in the city after the economic crisis from a few years ago, but instead, he sees a lot of “constructed” growth which feels messy and chaotic. During his visit to Downtown Dubai around Burj Khalifa, he said that although he was impressed to see so much has been built in a very short period, but it "feels fake". 

I tend to agree with Elkoury and told him I don’t feel lessons were learnt after the crisis and Dubai is very much in construction overdrive mode, especially after the World Expo 2020 in Dubai announcement.  

About photography
When it comes to photography, Elkoury took it up based on instinct; it has and continues to play an important part in his life and work.

When we discussed the role of photography in the Middle East and its appreciation, or in most cases, lack of appreciation, he agreed with me that photography doesn’t get enough acknowledgment or recognition as an art form.

He pointed out that throughout history, artistic expression in the Arab world was found in literature, poetry, painting, sculpture and music; and in cinema during the past century, which took off in the Arab world when it was introduced, but the same cannot be said about photography. Somehow, photography is still struggling to be seen as a respected and serious art form in this region.

During his early days of photography, he was considered a "spy or following a disrespectful hobby". Again, this was another point we agreed on, and I was glad he validated my thoughts on how photography is perceived in this part of the world. There is distrust when it comes to photographers, especially when found in non-touristic sites. And there isn’t the same level of respect when it comes to photography as art and we wondered if it's due to the fact that in this day and age, everyone with a camera phone is a photographer, documenting and sharing a constant flood of images on social media? Or is it to do with the fact that photographs sold in galleries are in editions, and buyers prefer unique pieces, hence the popularity of paintings and sculptures?


About empty places
Before meeting Elkoury, I spent a lot of time looking at his work on his site, which goes back to the 1980s. I noticed a lot of his work does not show people, where he’s more of an observer or a quiet participant. For his Lost Empire series, I told him my first reaction to the work was categorising it as  “ruin porn” photography. But as we discussed his work, I realised it was simply a case of Elkoury seeking quiet and peaceful places, an appreciation that has come with age. He described the places he photographed for The Lost Empire series as “beautiful”, whereas most people think of them as ruined and abandoned. He prefers to go to places without people, to enjoy nature, silence and his surroundings.


On that note, I leave you with some of Elkoury’s photos from the exhibition, accompanied with Negar Azmi’s eloquently written essay about this series (included in the exhibition catalogue). Negar Azimi is a writer and senior editor at Bidoun, an arts and culture magazine based in New York.   

Grab a coffee/tea/drink, sit back, read and enjoy the photos. If you are in Dubai, the exhibition is on till 29h May 2014.  

Mute Witness by Negar Azimi

© Fouad Elkoury, Balaton Airport, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 50 x 75 cm

He always arrived with a bottle of whiskey and a smile, just in case he had any problems getting in. Some encounters were more strange than others. In Hungary, he found dozens of menus scattered around, traces of soldiers’ mess halls from five decades before. In Germany, he walked into a warehouse stocked with crisp never-before-used officer fatigues. Somewhere else — he can’t remember where — he found young men racing their motorbikes along ancient airplane landing grounds. More often than not, sleepy sentinels—for there were often guards standing about the derelict architectural carcasses — raised their shoulders in sulky indifference to indicate that these abandoned military bases were not of their moment, but rather, that of their parents and grandparents. This was just some job. They didn’t have answers to the questions.


© Fouad Elkoury, Bunker, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 72 x 90 cm

It is a queer thing to trace the footprints of great historical epochs. Unlike the photojournalist who yearns to be there in the moment – as the wall falls, when the dictator flees, amid the crowds heaving – the photographer of traces takes his time, thinks hard about the where, and sets out on a long walk. These walks take hours or weeks. Sometimes they take years, for if anything, they are not “timely.” The photographer says he has a sort of predisposition and sympathy toward these liminal spaces (for it is not clear if these sites are in a state of becoming or unbecoming). Maybe, he says, it’s a sort of a natural affinity. He has set out on journeys not unlike this one in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Nicosia. In all of these places, the quality of the sound is the same, he says. Silence, it is thunderous, wraps around you like a blanket.


© Fouad Elkoury, Furstenwalde, 2011, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 50 x 62.5 cm

History becomes a puzzle to decipher. Sometimes, a place might unleash an avalanche of memory. When Jacques Austerlitz comes to know pieces of his occluded past in the novel of the same name by W.G. Sebald, he says of a gloomy room in London’s Liverpool Street station that it seemed to hold “all the hours of my past life, all the suppressed and extinguished fears and wishes I had ever entertained.” Sebald, the Bavarian author who passed away in 2001, may have been the last century’s great writer-historian. While his immediate concern seemed to be the still-fresh ravages of the second world war in Europe, it is in and around the gaps of his narratives that this vexed history speaks. Silences are pregnant. Past traumas are subtly alluded to. Objects can be bearers of riddles. Throughout his novels, one encounters ghosts, obfuscations, retellings: the landscape is littered with them. Nothing is addressed head on. There is no clarity. Here he is again, in another novel, Rings of Saturn: “We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.”


© Fouad Elkoury, Kiskunlachaza, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 60 x 90 cm

We do not know how it was. Elegant understatements of past horrors, Elkoury’s photographs offer themselves up as Sebaldian traces. And like Sebald’s principle character in Rings of Saturn, who walks for the length of 300 pages in a heroic zigzag through the British countryside, Elkoury, too, walks. He finds memories jaded. People have died. The curious few are left to sift through the inscrutable wreckage of this modern life.


© Fouad Elkoury, Kluczewo, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 72x 90 cm

Sometimes, Elkoury’s ruins, if you can call them that, take on the appearance of other ruins we have known. In Kluczewo, two bunkers sit in the back of the frame, a little like the squat Mexican pyramids of Teotihuacan. In Furstenwalde, pillars from a now-destroyed structure (or was it never built?) approximate long discarded Greco-Roman pillars holding up nothing but sky. And everywhere, there are strange stand-ins for the human forms that once populated these abandoned spaces. In Gross Doln, over-tall lamps stand out like attenuated bodies. In Juterborg, two ventilators on the side of a building take on the aspect of ancient eyes.


© Fouad Elkoury, Mezokovesd, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 60 x 90 cm

Somewhere between becoming and unbecoming. And yet, one of the defining characteristics of these remnants of a Soviet past is that they exist in spite of the world. Everywhere in these photographs, a persistent grass grows — invading concrete crevices and cracks or inching along retired walls — as if reminding us that these wars, these empires, are mere specks on the historical record. The history of humans is a small thing. Nature persists.


© Fouad Elkoury, Retired Buses, 2010, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 72 x 90 cm

One final image. Two boulders lie casually on a promontory, before a lake. There is no trace of the retired military base that is surely in the surrounds. The boulders appear to us as mute witnesses, having been here for decades, if not centuries. And while they are likely to hold many answers — for we came here with questions — it seems all too evident that they are not about to reveal a thing.

© Fouad Elkoury, Tartu ,lac, 2011, Chromogenic Print Diasec, 100 x 125 cm


Event details
Date: On till Thursday, 29th May 2014, 10am-7pm 
Venue: The Third Line, Street 6, Al Quoz 3, Dubai (location map


Film Screening - Ship of Theseus

Ship of Theseus by Anand Ghandi will be screened at DUCTAC on Saturday, 31st May 2014 at 5pm. The film is quite long, 140 minutes long -  so make sure you get comfortable whilst watching it. 


If the parts of a ship are replaced,bit-by-bit, is it still the same ship?

An unusual photographer grapples with the loss of her intuitive brilliance as an aftermath of a clinical procedure; an erudite monk confronting an ethical dilemma with a long held ideology, has to choose between principle and death; and a young stockbroker, following the trail of a stolen kidney, learns how intricate morality could be.

Following the separate strands of their philosophical journeys, and their eventual convergence, Ship of Theseus explores questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death. 




Event details
Date: Saturday, 31st May 2014 at 5pm
Venue: DUCTAC, Kilachand Theatre in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Duration: 140 mins 
Free entry.


Film Screening - I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night 


A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue will be screening I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night by Deus ex Machina on Wednesday, 21st May at 7pm. The screening is hosted by Capital D Studio.

The film follows the adventures of Australian surfers Harrison Roach and Bryce Young as they journey across Indonesia. 

I HAD TO MUCH TOO DREAM LAST NIGHT follows the simplistic travels of two surfers, meeting friends along the way, on an open ended journey across an archipelago littered with islands and breaks.

Connected by ribbons of tarmac and separated by deep ocean valleys these islands have been here for millennia and will continue to do so for millennia to come.

An veritable eden for waves of every nature, from long reeling glassy points breaks to sketchy urchin infested waves in the middle of nowhere





Event details
Date: Wednesday, 21st May at 7pm
Venue: A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)
Free entry.



Exhibition - Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa at East Wing

© Tanya Habjouqa (2013) - West Bank: A Palestinian youth from Hebron enjoys a swim in Ein Farha, considered to be one of the most beautiful nature spots in the entire West Bank. It, like many other nature reserves and heritage sites in the West Bank, is managed by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority. Palestinian touristic enterprise is not allowed.


Award winning series Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa will be exhibited at East Wing from Tuesday, 20th May till 10th July 2014. East Wing is a gallery dedicated to photography and recently opened in Dubai, in the Limestone House building in Dubai International Financial Centre).  This will be the gallery's second exhibition, after its ill-fated debut exhibition in Dubai which was shut down shortly after it opened

Tanya Habjouqa is the recipient of the 2013 Magnum Foundation Emergency fund award, and also won an award at the 2014 World Press Photo Contest for Occupied Pleasures

More than four million people live in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, under arduous political and economic conditions with limited freedom of movement.  Yet, amidst these constricting circumstances arising from a 47-year occupation, commonplace everyday pleasures of the population persevere. 

Tanya Habjouqa’s photographic project, "Occupied Pleasures", created between 2011–2014, observes these small, but far from insignificant moments of daily life with a sharp sense of humor, revealing a narrative which stands in stark contrast to more widely viewed reportage, focused on violence and conflict.

For Habjouqa, this series is also a very personal one and reflects her own experiences living in East Jerusalem with her family. Married to a Palestinian lawyer with Israeli citizenship, "Occupied Pleasures" also mirrors Habjouqa’s daily life, sharing quirky moments of amusement in a region rarely photographed with a sense of humor.


This exhibition will show life in East, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem that we are not normally exposed to in the media. I've seen some of the work exhibted in group exhibiions in Dubai and elsewhere in the past, but never as a solo show,  so I am really looking forward to this. 

I love this quote by Habjouqa reflecting on the origins of the series.  

I sought the juxtaposition of everyday politics and absurdity. Inspiration for this project came while in the Gaza Strip in 2009, during an interview with a man who refused to be deprived of his right to love, sneaking his Jordanian bride through tunnels from Egypt. 

He told me, “it was like a Bollywood film, her standing there and trembling, covered with dirt… I covered her with kisses.”



Here are some of the photos from the exhibition. The exhibition will open on Tuesday 20th May and will run till Thursday, 10th July 2014. Don't miss this. 

The Palestinian visual narrative, as represented in western media, is often portrayed through a narrow prism. Despite the inability of Palestinians to maintain and sustain a normal way of life, and amidst this jarring reality, men, women and children often manage to steal moments of simple joys – quirky, modest occasions of happiness that range from taking a spin on a merry go-around to riding horses, or imagining a tropical adventure all the while standing against a colorful backdrop with a live parakeet in a simple studio in a refugee camp. Tanya Habjouqa

© Tanya Habjouqa (2013) - A young boy attempts to bath his reluctant donkey in the sea, directly beside his home on the outskirts of Gaza's Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp. His family barely etches a living tied to menial labor with their horse and donkey. Bathing the animals is an excuse to splash around sea.


© Tanya Habjouqa (2013) - West Bank: Students from the Al-Quds University javelin team wrap up the last practice before summer vacation in the West Bank city of Abu Dis, next to the Israeli Separation Wall.


© Tanya Habjouqa (2013) - Hayat Abu R'maes, 25, and Nabila Albo, 39, have been teaching yoga for one year now. Sometimes they go to nature spots (one popular spot with Roman ruins) that settlers try to intimidate Palestinians from accessing, they say. They call it, "inner resistance". When yoga classes started in Zatara village, on the outskirts of Bethlehem, the weekly class barely had students. Now they are so popular that despite the small exercise room that is utilized as an aerobics class, the center staggers five classes a week. The room barely fits 15 students in each class.


© Tanya Habjouqa (2013) - Toy Van, Gaza Beach Highway. 

Here's a video version of the series, think of it as an exhibition trailer. 




Event details
Dates: Special opening reception on Tuesday 20th May 2014 at 7:00pm. Exhibition will be on Thursday, 10th July 2014.
Venue: East Wing, Limestone House #12, Dubai International Financial Center, Dubai (location map
Phone:  +971 5055 33 879  


Slidefest XIII - 14th May 2014

© Richard Allenby-Pratt

The 13th edition of Slidefest organised by Gulf Photo Plus is on this Wednesday, 14th May at 7pm in the Knowledge Village Auditorium

If you've not been to Slidefest before, it's an event organised by Gulf Photo Plus where photographers present their personal projects, from documentary projects to fine art, still-life and landscape images. The event also aims to bring photographers (amateurs and pros) and people from the photography community together where people can network, connect and share stories.

I am happy to say I am one of the presenters this month, I will be sharing some of my Deira Polaroids series. Here's the full line up of photographers:


Richard Allenby-Pratt

© Richard Allenby-Pratt

Richard Allenby-Pratt is a photographer based in Dubai. After gaining attention for his 'Abandoned' project, which was exhibited last year, Richard continues to expand his personal work.

Exploring the developed and undeveloped landscapes of the UAE, Richard will be presenting a series of documentary landscape photographs entitled 'Consumption' and considering how are decisions as consumers impact upon the environment. 



Amani Al Shaali

© Amani Al Shaali

Born in the UAE, Amani Al Shaali studied Interior Design at the American University in Dubai and is now designing yacht interiors for a living.  She developed a passion for photography at the age of 13, and through photography she discovered her love for editing.  

After graduating, Amani began to take photography more seriously, pursuing personal projects and developing her passion for fine art photography. Creating something out of nothing brings an exhilarating feeling that keeps her creating new work.  Recently exhibiting during the DIFC ArtBeat event, Amani will be sharing a series of compositions dipicting characters set in moody landscapes and dramatic circumstances.



Lewis de Mesa 

© Lewis de Mesa

Lewis de Mesa is a co-founder and former member of Brownmonkeys, a design collective based in Dubai. Currently he works freelance at Twofour54 as an art director, animator and a time-lapse photographer. His work has appeared on CNN as well as in Gulf News, The National, and 7 Days.

When he first started pursuing timelapse photography, his aim was to do something different and unique, so he was one of the few who introduced motion time-lapse with the use of a motorized slider. His passion for time-lapse photography continues to motivate him, as not even the hot summer sun in the UAE stops him from shooting outdoors. Lewis will be presenting his time-lapse photography shot here in the UAE.



Esam Hassanyeh 

© Esam Hassanyeh

Esam Hassanyeh is a photographer in Dubai specializing in corporate, sports and portrait photography.  Esam was raised in the UK and has also lived in Paris and Jakarta. Before becoming a professional photographer, Esam worked in the financial markets in London, he then started his own financial training company in Dubai.

In 2008, he bought his first DSLR and found that whilst he enjoyed what he did before, when he has a camera in his hands, he simply enjoys being himself. Esam will be presenting portraits he has shot in Ethiopia. 



Hind Mezaina 

© Hind Mezaina

Hind Mezaina is a photographer and culture writer from Dubai. Her award winning blog covers cultural news, events, reviews in the UAE and beyond. Hind’s photography has been exhibited in several local and international group exhibitions.

Deira Polaroids is a new photo series that Hind has initiated recently. It's an ongoing series of images taken during her frequent walks and visits to Deira, her favourite part of Dubai. It’s an ode to Deira, to visually showcase the thriving part of “old” Dubai. The first part of this series was exhibited at this year's SIKKA Art Fair in House 16. Hind will be sharing a selection of the Deira Polaroids at Slidefest. 



Guido Sperzaga

© Guido Sperzaga

Guido Sperzaga is a Dubai based professional photographer and also co-founder of The Onlooker, a locally based photography team. Guido's photography aims to dipict the everyday life and culture of people from around the world, discovering hidden stories and capturing the beauty of the multi-ethnic world we live in.

Guido will be presenting a moving series of images from an orphanotrophy in Nepal, where orphaned children recieve medical care and support.



Event details:
Date: Wednesday, 14th May at 7pm. 
Location: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Free entry. 


Exhibition: Language Arts by Slavs and Tatars 

Language Arts, 2014 - Installation view at The Third Line, Dubai

Language Arts by Slavs and Tatars is the latest exhibition at The Third Line, it opened last month and there's one week left. It's a fun exhibition that looks at language and "an exploration of alphabet politics". 

It's on for one more week, till Thursday 17th April. If you are in Dubai, don't miss this. 


Slavs and Tatars’ recent work turns to language as a source of political, metaphysical, even sexual emancipation. With their trademark mix of high and low registers, ribald humor and esoteric discourse, the collective addresses the thorny issue of alphabet politics and attempts by nations, cultures, and ideologies to ascribe a specific set of letters to a given language.

The march of alphabets has always accompanied that of empires and religions: Latin script along with the Roman Catholic faith; Arabic with Islam and the Caliphate; as well as Cyrillic with Orthodox Christianity, and subsequently the USSR. Within this body of work, it is not peoples or nations that are liberated, but rather phonemes, from attempts to restrain and rein them in.


Slavs and Tatars 0 Kitab Kebab (Mexico, I), 2012 | Books, glue, metal skewer, 50x50x50cm


Slavs and Tatars - To Beer Or Not To Beer, 2014 | Vacuum formed plastic and Acrylic Paint, 64 x 91cm


Language Arts celebrates language in all its polyphonic glory, with original works in Persian, Russian, Turkish, Georgian and English. A new series of sculptures, installations, textiles and printed matter address a range of subjects: from name changes, in Love Me Love Me Not, to the orality of language, with Rahlé for Richard. The Trannie Tease vacuum forms present transliteration ­– the conversion of scripts ­–as the linguistic equivalent of transvestism: a strategy equally of resistance and research in notions of identity politics, colonialism, and liturgical reform. The Love Letters carpets address the issue of manipulation of alphabets across Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic, through the Russian Revolution’s most well-known, if conflicted, poet-champion, Vladimir Mayakovsky.


Slavs and Tatars - Dig The Booty, 2009 | Vacuum formed plastic and Acrylic Paint, 64 x 91cm


Slavs and Tatars - Love Me, Love Me Not (Iran Ahvaz), 2014 | Copper mirror, reverse-glass acrylic paint, 85x60cm


Slavs and Tatars often collide those things considered opposites, or incompatible — be it Islam and Communism, metaphysics and humor, or pop culture and geopolitics. From their first publication Kidnapping Mountains (Book Works, 2009) to the more recent Khhhhhhh (Mousse/Moravian Gallery 2012), the collective has consistently turned to language as a tool for disruption, humor, and unexpected meaning. By challenging an understanding of language as exclusively rational or semantic, Slavs and Tatars emphasize its potential to be affective and sensual, concealing as much as it reveals; even becoming a platform for sacred wisdom, rather than a mere vehicle for secular knowledge or profane, everyday use.  


Language Arts, 2014 - Installation view at The Third Line, Dubai




Event details
Date: Till Thursday, 17th April 2014 | Sat-Thu: 10 am To 7 pm | Fridays closed
Venue: The Third Line, Street 6, Al Quoz 3 (location map)
Free entry.  


[all images courtesy of the artists and The Third Line] 



Film Screening - Wadjda

The Scene Club
 will screen one of my favourite films this month, Wadjda by Haifaa Al Mansour on Tuesday, 8th April 2014. In my opinion, it's the best film from the Gulf region we've seen for a long time. If you've not heard about it or seen it before, this is your chance.

Wadjda is the first full length feature film that was filmed entirely inside Saudi Arabia with an all Saudi cast and is the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director. It will be screened on Tuesday, 8th April at 8pm. Tickets are complimentary, but you must register in advance and collect your ticket at the venue.  

It is a beautiful and very touching film, so spread the word and don't miss this.  


Wadjda is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, a neighbourhood boy she shouldn’t be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda’s mother won’t allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself.

At first, Wadjda’s mother is too preoccupied with convincing her husband not to take a second wife to realize what’s going on. And soon enough Wadjda’s plans are thwarted when she is caught running various schemes at school. Just as she is losing hope of raising enough money, she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition at her school. She devotes herself to the memorization and recitation of Koranic verses and her teachers begin to see Wadjda as a model pious girl. The competition isn‘t going to be easy, especially for a troublemaker like Wadjda, but she refuses to give in. She is determined to continue fighting for her dreams.




Wadjda has won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, including Venice, Rotterdam, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Goteborg and Fribourg and has received a myriad of nominations, including for the 2014 BAFTA Awards. The film was selected as the Saudi Arabian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014 Academy Awards and it was the first time that Saudi Arabia submitted a film for the Oscar.


Event details
Date: Tuesday, 8th April 2014
Time: 7.00pm – Ticket Collection and Networking | 8.00pm – Film screening 
Venue: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Register for your ticket online.  




Franco Film Festival 2014


The 4th edition of  francOfilm Festival 2014 is back, from 26th-29th March. It will take place in Vox Cinemas in Abu Dhabi (Marina Mall) and Dubai (Mall of the Emirates).

This year's edition includes films from Belgium, Canada, France, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Switzerland, Senegal and Chad and will have English subtitles. Tickets for each film costs AED 25, so cheaper than the regular films screening in our cinemas. 

Some of these films were screened recently at the Dubai International Film Festival, I've seen some and others I've missed, so I'm looking forward to catching up on what I missed. And before each screening, short films from the UAE will be shown. 

I'm glad this is on because I've not spent a lot of time in our cinemas since the Dubai International Film Festival. 


Here's the schedule and the line up:


Wednesday, 26th March 2014 

Des étoiles (Under the Starry Sky), 2014
Directed by Diana Gaye | Senegal | PG | 88 mins 
10pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai 

Across Turin, Dakar, and New York, the destinies of Sophie, Abdoulaye and Thierno cross paths. Sophie, 24, leaves Dakar to join her husband, Abdoulaye, in Turin. Meanwhile, Abdoulaye has already left for New York through a smuggler’s network. Nineteen-year-old Thierno is travelling through Africa for the first time.

Under the Starry Sky takes the audience on an unforgettable journey through the diverse cities and draws attention to the characters’ realities, hopes and dreams of contemporary emigration.  




Thursday, 27th March 2014 

Hiver nomade (Winter Nomads), 2013 
Directed by Manuel von Stürler | Switzerland | Documentary | PG | 90 mins
6pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai

Pascal, 53, and Carole, 28, are shepherds. In the month of November 2010, they embark on their long winter transhumance: four months during which they will have to cover 600 km in the Swiss-French region, accompanied by three donkeys, four dogs and a eight hundred sheep.

An exceptional adventure is about to begin: they brave the cold and the bad weather day in day out, with a canvas cover and animal skins as their only shelter at night. This saga reveals a tough and exacting profession requiring constant improvisation and unflinching attention to nature, the animals and the cosmos. An eventful journey with surprise encounters, moving reunions with farmer friends, nostalgic figures of country life that is shrinking away fast.

A film dominated by the strong personalities of Pascal and Carole, whose relationship and joie de vivre transform this transhumance into a magnificent hymn to freedom, at opposite extremes of our comfortable reality. Winter Nomads is an adventure film, a contemporary road movie, a reflection of our current world, which takes us back to our roots and our inner questions. 


Grigris (2013) 
Directed by Mahamet Saleh Haroun | Chad | 13+ | 101 mins
9pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai  

Despite a paralyzed leg, Grigris, 25-year old, dreams of being a dancer. A challenge. But his dreams are dashed when his uncle falls critically ill. To save him, Grigris resolves to work for petrol traffickers. 



Friday, 28th March 2014 

Sur le chemin de l’école (On the way to school), 2013
Directed by Pascal Plisson | France | Documentary | G | 77 mins
3pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai

The children depicted in this film live in the four corners of the globe and all share the same desire to learn. They’ve understood that only education will allow them to improve their lives, and for this reason, each day, they set out on highly risky journeys, through extraordinary landscapes, on their quest for knowledge.

Eleven year old Jackson lives in Kenya and, every morning and evening, he and his younger sister walk nine and a half miles across the savannah populated by wild animals. Twelve year old Zahira lives in the steep Atlas Mountains. It takes her and her two friends an exhausting day of walking to reach their boarding school. Thirteen year old Samuel lives in India. The two and half miles he must cross each day are a challenge because his legs are paralyzed. His two younger brothers push his makeshift wheelchair for more than an hour in order to get to school. Eleven year old Carlito crosses the Patagonian plains on horseback, accompanied by his younger sister. Each day the pair travels 11 miles back and forth, no matter the weather.

On the Way to School allows us to share the extraordinary daily lives of these children, whose determination coupled with a dream leads them down a path that we have all taken, but never quite in this way.


Gabrielle, 2013
Directed by Louise Archambault | Canada | 16+ | 93 mins 
6pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai


Gabrielle is a young woman with Williams syndrome who has a contagious joie de vivre and an exceptional musical gift. Since she met her boyfriend Martin, at the recreation centre where they are choir members, they have been inseparable. However, because they are “different,” their loved ones are fearful of their relationship.

As the choir prepare for an important music festival, Gabrielle does everything she can to get her independence. As determined as she is, Gabrielle must still confront other people’s prejudices as well as her own limitations in the hope of experiencing a love far from the “ordinary”. 


Heritages, 2013 – 96 min 
Directed by Philippe Aractingi | Lebanon | Documentary | G | 96 mins  
9pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai 

When director Philippe Aractingi is forced to leave his motherland for the third time, the reality dawns on him: his ancestors have been fleeing wars for five generations. Exploring his roots, Aractingi goes back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the creation of Israel and the Lebanese Civil War. Experimenting with a radical new film-making style, he interlaces directed scenes and archive images with video-filmed personal diaries, family photos and super 8 reels.



Saturday, 29th March 2014 

Le monde nous appartient (The World Belongs to Us), 2012 88 min
Directed by Stephan Streker | Belgium | 16+ | 88 mins
3pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai 

Pouga and Julien are two youngsters in their 20es, who both lead an ordinary life in the suburbs of Brussels. Despite their differences, they share one thing in common, an uncertain future. Julien is an aspiring professional football player, but the way to the top is not easy. Pouga is a small time crook, who steals luxury cars for a living.

When their destinies meet, little do they know that tragedy is just around the corner. Featuring the most promising actors of their generation, “Le monde nous appartient” is sure to resonate with teens.



Rock the Casbah, 2013
Directed by Laila Marrakchi | Morocco-France | 15+ | 100 mins
6pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai 

Summer in Tangiers. After the death of their father, the women of the family get together for three days in the family residency to grieve and remember according to Muslim culture. Goodbye to beach and bikinis, it is now time to wear djellabas, to reunite everyone together and to deck the house out in funeral attire. The house is full of activity.

Things reach a crescendo when Sofia, the youngest daughter, returns home. Actress who only plays terrorist roles in American television series, she arrives from New York after several years of absence. Her return set up the grounds to settle scores with her sisters and to overturn the order established by the defunct patriarch. Between laughter and tears, a collective hysteria allows all of them to discover their true selves.  


Harag W’Marag (Chaos, Disorders), 2012 
Directed by Nadine Khan | Egypt | PG
9pm in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and Mall of the Emirates, Dubai  

Manal, Zaki, and Mounir are in their twenties. They live in a chaos-filled community next to a garbage dump where their basic needs are barely met. Beneath the disorder in their society is a layer of troubled relationships, decaying love and a feverish competition between Zaki and Mounir to woo Manal.

A competition that can only be resolved by football. Respecting boundaries, the film carries a current of privacy through its unique portrayal of an isolated and closed society.



You can also download the schedule here, Abu Dhabi schedule and Dubai schedule 



Deira Polaroids

© Hind Mezaina - Deira Clock Tower Roundabout

Deira Polaroids is a new photo series I started recently, it's an ongoing series of images I've taken during my frequent walks and visits to Deira (my favourite part of Dubai). It’s an ode to Deira, to visually showcase the thriving part of “old” Dubai. 

The first part of this series is exhibited at this year's SIKKA Art Fair in House 16. The exhibition is accompanied with an essay titled  “Deira Modern, Notes from Dubai” by Todd Reisz, which I featured here three years ago. The series includes some of my favourite buildings and spots, some have been around from the mid 1970s. 

Here are 10 photos from the 60 exhibited at SIKKA and extracts from Todd Reisz's essay. I really enjoyed my walks and taking these photos and plan to go back to take more. I am hoping to develop this into something bigger, so watch this space.    

© Hind Mezaina - Radisson Blu Deira 
© Hind Mezaina - Sheraton


Deira was Dubai’s most modern quarter. It still is, though it’s often referred to as “Old Dubai,” a generalization that only describes a stop on the Dubai visitor’s course. To see a gold souk, a fish market. To take an abra for no reason other than to take an abra.

The charm of the antiquated is an applied layer. Deira survives this nostalgia by ignoring it.


© Hind Mezaina - Bike 1 
© Hind Mezaina - Trees by the creek
In contrast to the towers of Sheikh Zayed Road, Deira might seem static and quaint, poor and outdated. This couldn’t be further from the truth. How could Deira be irrelevant when everyone complains that Deira is too crowded? It’s crowded because Deira is true urbanism; it’s more city than elsewhere in Dubai.  

© Hind Mezaina - Dubai Municipality 1
© Hind Mezaina - Dubai Municipality 2 
Today’s Deira operates not much differently than that of the 1970s when reclaimed land began to make Dubai a real estate success. The new shore separated the merchants from the ships. They were reconnected with dollies and Japanese pick-up trucks outfitted with wrought iron fencing that could weave through auto and foot traffic to deliver goods. 

It’s still done the same way today. Tourists snap pictures of a world that seems so much of yesterday: Pakistani men in ‘traditional’ dress wielding worn carts stacked with supplies. These men running carts from creek to shop are more essential to Dubai’s longevity than the latest office tower in Media City.   
© Hind Mezaina - Fish Roundabout 
 © Hind Mezaina - Claridge Hotel


If one wanted to locate a local approach to modernism in the Gulf region, one should start in the parts of cities like Deira. Shading built into building facades provides interaction with the street but also privacy from the street. These buildings should be inspiration for what could work in Dubai and in other cities, but tastes and preferences preclude that. These parts are written off as old, dirty, rat-infested. They are often all of these things. Most people living in the buildings would move out if they could . 
But the struggle, the need to stay vs the desire to leave, once defined cities. Cities were never places of comfort; they were where we once encountered the human soul.


© Hind Mezaina - Hyatt Regency

Deira Polaroids will be exhibited in House 16 SIKKA Art Fair till 25th March 2014 between 2.00-10.00pm. Location map.   

SIKKA Art Fair 2014 


SIKKA Art Fair is back this year from 15th-25th March. This year's edition includes over 50 artists, musicians, performers and artist collectives. Besides the various exhibitions, the 10 days will include film screenings, live entertainment and talks. This year's edition is co-curated by Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum, founder and director of FN Designs, and Japanese architect and programme director, Kayoko Iemura who are joined by Yusaka Imamura, the Art Adviser to the fair.

SIKKA continues to support and showcase UAE based artists, but I do wish initiatives like this happen more than once a year as I do think the platform to promote artists based here needs to expand beyond art week every March. 

If you've not been to SIKKA, it is held in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (formerly known a Bastakiya) and the place is truly livened up during the 10 days of the fair. So if you've never been, I strongly suggest you don't miss this.


And now for a bit of self promotion here. I have work showing in two houses this year:

Deira Polaroids

House 16 - my new Deira Polaroids series, an ongoing series of images taken during my frequent walks and visits to Deira. It’s an ode to Deira, to visually showcase the thriving part of “old” Dubai. The exhibition will be accompanied with an essay titled “Deira Modern, Notes from Dubai” by Todd Reisz, which I featured here three years ago.  



Cassette Tape Project

House 10 - Tashkeel House, my Cassette Tape Project which was first set up last September when it was commissioned by Red Bull Music Academy Base Camp.)



At the time of writing this post, I didn't have information about all the participants, so unfortunately, I cannot share a list of must sees. But the best advice I can give you is to just go, get lost in the area and discover new work along the way. 

Here's a video of highlights from SIKKA 2013 to give you a sense of the fair and its location.  




Fair timings and how to get to SIKKA.