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Tea with Culture

Podcast featuring discussions and interviews about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


Entries in S*uce (5)


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.   

Artist Talk - The S*uce Bench Project

The Dubai Bench by Hind Mezaina

A short while ago, I wrote about The Dubai Benches project initiated by S*uce and I'm glad to say the project is alive and kicking and there are some great looking benches around town.

You are invited to attend a talk with some of the artists (including yours truly) who will share their experiences, explain the concepts behind their designs and to answer any questions. I know it's short notice, but if you are in the neighbourhood, please drop by.

Even details
Date and time: 6th April at 7pm
Venue: The Pavilion Downtown Dubai (location map)
Free entry


My bench, the one added above is called The Dubai bench. Here are some more benches, by the artists that will be at the talk. Hope to see you at the talk.

Bench by Khalid Shafar.

In my interpretation, I strived to achieve the equation of ‘3 equals 9’.  I wanted this 3-seater bench to share its moments with more than 3, with a simple move or flip.

This bench can welcome 9 people at a time and is multifunctional. You can lay down to read and take a nap if placed in a park or you can table dine if placed in a mall or  on the beach. A touch of Gold  was added to reflect Dubai ‘The City of Gold’ and to enhance the aesthetic look of the bench with a metallic finish and contemporary twist.



Bench by Fathima Mohiuddin.

I’ve covered this bench
In the marks I use to make things mine
It’s a sort of shadow, in negative

Bench by Maria Dowlatshahi

My bench was inspired by the Peacock, which throughout history has been associated with so much symbolism: protection, guidance, integrity, and beauty to list just a few.

On the bench I have written, “Welcome back to my bench” which to me really is a means of welcoming myself back to myself,  by just sitting and  enjoying the moment.


Bench by Xische.

We decided to involve the crowd in this effort to raise awareness for benches as, in the end, the benches are for the crowds. Hence, the crowd-sourcing initiative. The various colours of paint we used were to represent the many voices that joined in, and to highlight that the bench belongs to the people. This way, the people belong to the bench too, forever immortalised on its surface. Awareness of the campaign spread like wild fire in the few days that it was live which was great for all involved.



Images courtesy S*uce and The Pavilion.


The Dubai Benches Project

© Hind Mezaina
The Dubai Benches Projects is a new community project initiated by s*uce that aims to increase the number of benches in Dubai.

"Some landscaped areas in Dubai have benches but there are plenty that do not.  Women jogging around Old Town have no place to sit and take a break, mothers with their children on the merry-go-round have no place to rest and watch while they play, friends who run into each other in malls have no place to hang out and catch up. Sometimes you don’t need a restaurant or coffee shop, you just need a bench. And there aren’t enough in Dubai."

Everybody is invited to contribute and join in the conversation by sharing photos, images and stories about benches which will be featured on You can send the following to

  1. Photos  of your favourite bench (in Dubai or anywhere else in the world) and why you like it.
  2. Photos of a candid moment caught on a bench.
  3. Photos of a space or area in Dubai where there should be a bench but isn’t (e.g. by the sea, in a mall, in a park, by the road).
  4. Any story or anecdote about something that happened on a bench.
  5. Anything wonderful or inspirational like a sketch of a bench, a quote, a poem, etc.

Also be on the lookout later this month for benches that S*auce have commissioned some artists to work on (yours truly is included). As soon as the information is ready to be shared, I will post an update on this blog.

Now step outside, find yourself a bench and share your stories.

© Hind Mezaina


Pecha Kucha Dubai on 19th Jan 2011

Pecha Kucha Dubai is back with its 9th edition this week. I've missed the last few  editions of Pecha Kucha, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

To those that are new to Pecha Kucha, it follows a 20x20 format which allows each presenter to showcase 20 images – each shown for exactly 20 seconds. This gives the presenter 6 minutes and 40 seconds before switching over to the next participant. Originating in Japan, Pecha Kucha is Japanese for "chatter" and was devised and shared by Klein Dytham architecture.

Event details:
Date: Wednesday, 19th January
Location: The Third Line, Al Quoz (location map)
Phone: +971 4 341 1367
Time: 8.20pm. It starts on time, so don't be late.
Free entry.

Here's the list of presenters:

1. Omar Jaramillo Traverso, an architect, an artist and part of the Urban Sketchers network, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel. Omar will show some of his sketches and talk about his experience of sketching in the UAE.
You can find his work here: and

Abu Dhabi by Omar Jaramillo Traverso
Taxi by Omar Jaramillo Traverso

2. Arnaud Humbert - Photographer -
The title of his presentation is Abstraction & Reality: When Digital Art is committed to raising sustainable development consciousness in the UAE.
At the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the UAE National Day in 2011, Arnaud will present a project proposal to associate the UAE and more specifically Dubai to a world-class event that will associate the Emirate to the finest of art and culture, the heart of sustainable development awareness, and state-of-the-art digital technology.
"Around an iconic location of Dubai, and through an innovative scenic installation mixing giant photo projections, oriental-related music and renowned artists from all over the world, Abstraction and Reality wants to promote a 'living' art involved on sustainable development issues, and to support the key role of creation and culture in raising consciousness and in ongoing changes. Sustainable development is more and more understood as being an inter-dependent mix of social, environmental and economic issues in the UAE."

3. Joshua F. Williams - Music producer, recording engineer and mixer
Joshua will talk about the life of an album, from initial idea to finished product. "Ultimately, albums have a way of taking on a life of their own, inevitably influenced by the goings on in the studio at the time, and what is happening in the musicians/producers lives. Each album tells a story. The presentation will try to tell those stories."

4. Mark Pilkington, a professor at the American University of Sharjah and a photographer, will present a series of photos that is work in progress called Catalogue.

5. Laura Egerton from Art Dubai will talk about Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the art prize for artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. It gives artists the opportunity to develop their ideas, and work on a grander scale and capacity. The mission of the prize is to empower artistic potential across the region, and showcase regional artistic excellence. The 2011 applications will open soon, and to date there have been 11 winners of the prize, but not yet one from the UAE. Hopefully this talk will encourage more UAE based artists to apply with some potentially winning concepts.

6. Melina Mitri from s*uce will present their latest community initiative, The Dubai Benches Projects. It aims to increase the number of benches in Dubai so that people here can celebrate the stories told, the lives lived and the moments shared on benches.
"Some landscaped areas in Dubai have benches but there are plenty that do not.  Women jogging around Old Town have no place to sit and take a break, mothers with their children on the merry-go-round have no place to rest and watch while they play, friends who run into each other in malls have no place to hang out and catch up. Sometimes you don’t need a restaurant or coffee shop, you just need a bench. And there aren’t enough in Dubai."

7. Hattie Bowering's presentation is about the Monobloc Chair, one of the most successful piece of furniture ever manufactured. The chair will be presented to the audience in its many guises and question what this chair has to say about our relationship with the material world.

8. Jill Hoyle from Tashkeel will talk about its role as an independent resource for artists and designers living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Tashkeel was established in 2008 and is committed to facilitating art and design practice, cross-cultural dialogue and creative exchange. She will also tell us about their new second venue, The Tashkeel House based in Bastakiya which will provide six individual artist studios and a dedicated members gallery.

9. Gayathri Krishnan and Reiner Erlings will present the making of "Movement", a creative collaboration bringing together over 100 musicians and artists from the UAE. A first of its kind in the region, Movement at heart, is a musical concert, showcasing the music of Gayathri Krishnan featuring the UAE Philharmonic Orchestra - the show will see a marriage of contemporary and classical music like never before.

Gayathri Krishnan (musician, performing artist and the creator and musical director of Movement) and Reiner Erlings (Producer/Songwriter and the Co-Musical Director of Movement) will take us through the creative process of arranging and composing music for an orchestra and in turn the process of bringing together contemporary and classical music. They will use one of Gayathri's original songs called 'Sinking Superhero' and deconstructing it and reconstructing it live. This will be done through live performance, and adding in orchestral and sound design elements, whilst explaining the process of working in an orchestra, electronic percussion and concept-driven sound design.


AMOR - A Magazine of Random

AMOR (A Magazine of Random) is a new limited edition experimental magazine that celebrates creativity. Published on a quarterly basis, the first issue is out this month and features five people from the art scene in Dubai sharing their lives and what they do best.

Published by Fn (art in Arabic) a Dubai based design studio (they recently organised the FAKiE exhibition), I'm really glad to see they've launched this magazine. I'm a magazine junkie and hate hearing things like "print is dead". So if you feel the same, I urge you to show some support and buy yourself a copy.

Click to read more ...