The Culturist Makeover

 Photo via shorpy.com

Photo via shorpy.com

Welcome to the The Culturist's new look. The blog has gone through a makeover since it was first launched in December 2009. 

The main navigation in the previous version was chronological, but now that there are more than 1600 posts, I decided it was long overdue to reorganise and restructure the site. You will notice the main navigation is now more visual and broken down into sections, which I hope you will agree is a better way to navigate the site.

I will highlight latest posts or featured posts on the home page, so you won't miss any new posts. 

So there you have it, that's the new change*, hope you like it and come back to read more. 

Checking each post brought back lots of memories from the art and culture scene, and looking back now, there was a different energy between 2009-2014 compared to now. An energy I miss.

I was reminded of places in Dubai like Shelter, The Pavilion, The ArchiveDUCTAC, that are no more, each space played a role in bringing people together and hosted a series of eclectic and sometimes challenging events. But I was also reminded how everything has a short life cycle because another entity comes along to knock down what was built. DUCTAC was the recent victim of this. Even Dubai International Film Festival seems like it's no more, all we know is the festival is working on a new 'strategy' and will be held every two years from 2019. Knowing that the entire team that was in charge of the festival (some there since the very start in 2004) were let go makes me cautious and suspicious of what to expect. Let's also not forget Gulf Film Festival ran between 2008-2013 and that stopped with no clear explanations. 

Not enough time is given to build an arts and culture legacy in Dubai, there is no real continuity. Whether something lasts 3, 5, or 15 years - it always feels like what was built gets knocked down, figuratively and literally, and replaced by something new. So places disappear, people forget and new actors in the story of art and culture in Dubai appear and claim they are doing something new that hasn't been done, not acknowledging past efforts —whether out of ignorance or forgetfulness— that played a role in the arts and culture community. 

Which made me realise the importance of maintaining this blog, although I can't report on everything that happens, I can at least write about things that interest me, that need attention, that sheds light on a city that is stuck with a stereotype that is hard to fight - which is why I started the blog in the first place. It's a record of my interests in Dubai and around the world. So many links/website that have been featured on this blog no longer exist, so many things get lost online, I can only hope this blog will be a time capsule of some sort, recording what's happening in the world of culture (in Dubai and beyond). 

While Dubai has more commercial galleries than ever before, we don't have enough community run spaces, and whatever remains seems to be mostly clustered within Al Serkal Avenue or Dubai Design District, both areas seem to be more suited to the young "influencers" and freelancers that appear to have sprouted in this city over the past few years. And yes, I'm older now and I'm more interested in supporting things I actually like and care for, then just turning up for everything art related. 

On a positive note, Dubai has an increased number of good art galleries (majority of them in Alserkal Avenue), many representing known artists and over the past few years, local/regional artists too; we have spaces like thejamjarTashkeel, Courtyard Playhouse, Alliance Française, Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation (a place I should pay more attention to) Jameel Arts Centre (opening in November this year), Shindagha Heritage District (first phase expected to open this year); we have cineplexes screening big blockbusters along with smaller films (usually without the fanfare shown for the blockbusters), and Cinema Akil, a new independently run cinema space opening soon after focusing on pop up screenings since 2014 ; we have events like the Emirates Airline Literature Festival, concert venues like Dubai Opera and Madinat Theatre (both bringing us a mixed bag of acts) and we're expecting Dubai Arenaa new venue that seats 20,000 people.  I've learned to accept the fact that in Dubai, the line between art and entertainment gets blurred sometimes, well, most of the time, and I just have to keep my ears and eyes open for anything that's more challenging. 

Sharjah continues to get my attention thanks to Sharjah Art Foundation and Abu Dhabi has Cinema SpaceNYUAD Arts Center, NYUAD Art Gallery and Louvre Abu Dhabi (where I curated film screenings). 

I admit blogging took a back seat the past couple of years and I was a bit on auto mode with my posts (mainly sharing film festival listings and a few other events), for several reasons. While my interest in what was happening in Dubai waned, events in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi would get me out more compared to what was happening in this city. I was also trying to focus on developing myself as an artist, and escaping the Dubai bubble to pursue what I enjoy. 

But I am now eager to get back to sharing things with you here, hence the makeover and a new fresh start. I know it feels like bloggers are a dying breed, but I want to keep going. I want to write about films, it's the art form I am most interested in, even more than before. I want to share personal thoughts on things happening in the city, I want to continue sharing interesting things found online - I miss getting lost in the internet rabbit hole. 

Welcome back if you've been here before, and if you're new to the blog, please help spread the word and I hope you can can come back soon.


* There are still a few more tweaks to be made, as I'm still checking if all the images/videos/links have been migrated properly into this new version - it's a one woman show and these things take time.)