A mask carrying a fort motif.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
ZeeArts, the global art organisation based in the Emirates that connects creatives of disparate disciplines with one another on an international level through art initiatives and projects, in collaboration with Forza Ragazzi (“Be Strong People”), the one stop shop for PPE requirements in Italy with a strong presence in the UAE, has launched a line of Creative Face Masks.
The aim, as the hosts put it, is to “untether the emotions as well as bring contemporary comfort”, rather than just wear a simple face mask.
Adding to the excitement of the recent launch in Dubai, which was a First Edition, the event also featured artist-activist and founder of ZeeArts, Zaahirah Muthy’s collection, The Glimmer of Hope, which was her 6th solo exhibition.
Keeping in mind global safety standards, the brand’s tagline has been Reflecting, Reconnecting and Rejoicing — a unique response to unprecedented circumstances.
According to Muthy, the occasion was also an initiative to support the creative industry and artists; be strong, is the message.
Forza Ragazzi is a pioneer of fashionable PPE products. Currently, the brand is available in over 20 locations in the UAE, including malls and community centres.
Its ideology regarding face masks, which are the most basic yet a pivotal part of the safety measures against covid, has been that wearing a mask is not enough: wearing the correct mask is essential.
“Forza Ragazzi, in short, denotes Italian style, global standards, and the most trusted PPE brand in the region”, it says.
Besides being market leaders in designer face masks, they also offer Face Shields, Coveralls, UV Sanitisation Boxes, safety helmets and more, focusing on safety and style.
Muthy, who hails from Mauritius, campaigns for positive changes in the public arena and conveys compelling messages through her art initiatives and artworks in various mediums.
As the helmsman for Art Connects Women and the brain behind two editions of the Women Artists Around the World Art Book, she has fostered a platform that assists the betterment of artists, especially women artists. Mainly working in mixed-media, she has adapted her art-making skills to painting and sculpting.
She draws inspiration from spirituality and is known for her curatorship as well as art creation. She has won many awards, including the Leonardo Da Vinci Universal Award in Florence, Italy, and the Femina–Women International Leadership Award (Artist Category) in India.
In 2016, she was awarded the Artist of the Year by RAK Fine Arts Festival. Muthy is also the recipient of Oscar de la Jeunesse in Artistic Pursuit and Youth Leadership award, given by the Government of Mauritius.
Her art is in private and corporate collections and she has exhibited in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Asia. “Art is a universal language”, she says.
“It heals our emotions and gives us comfort during this unprecedented time”. She added that the Creative Face Mask will add value to collections as well as enhance the fashion industry.
“UAE residents can proudly wear a Creative Face Mask with an original piece of art, knit together with a strong message of Hope, Happiness and Healing from the recently launched art exhibition, The Glimmer of Hope”, she says.
As the world gradually reopens itself to a new dawn, she revisits her artistic striving during the lockdown through a retrospective creation of 40 artworks, documenting the fluctuations of her emotions, meditations and psyche, during the period.
Each work, albeit child-like in rendering, presents a conceptual development that is far from being childish. Due to the pandemic, face masks have become part of many people’s everyday wardrobe. Designers have created masks that are as much fashion statements as keeping people safe.
Artists, designers and common people have shown their creativity by turning face masks into art projects and expressions of identity.
As the pandemic progressed, people began embracing face masks as fashion items, in addition to their primary function as a health measure, and made them a means of self-expression, from 3D-printed masks to crocheted characters.
Early in the pandemic, people and businesses from the fashion industry responded to official calls for help in overcoming the shortages of protective personal equipment, including face masks.
The masks were made to be straightforward and standard, as the main consideration at the time was function.
Fashion brands eventually reopened their factories for production due to the increasing demand for masks, and started to manufacture masks in a wider variety of styles. They have found support from governments.
The city of Vilnius in Lithuania, for example, held a Mask Fashion Week in May, which was promoted with billboards (with no catwalk or displays) around the city. The Walt Disney Company introduced uniform face masks for their employees at Disney World and Disneyland in the United States.
“The mask has become a fashion tool that you can play with”, says Chicago-based artist Isabelle Gougenheim. Using mainly street art designs, her face masks are paired with matching scarfs.
It has been suggested that possibly no other piece of clothing has had a trajectory like face masks — something that began as purely protective tool transforming itself into a fashion statement in no time at all.
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