The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival moves into its last phase - GulfToday

The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival moves into its last phase

Rak arta 2

Shadab Khan’s work Lost in the Dream.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF, Feb. 6 - Apr. 3) is entering the last phase of its 9th edition. A major event, which helped launch the UAE’s 2021 arts calendar, the annual arts festival established under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, opened to the public with all international standard COVID-19 safety guidelines in place. The historic Ras Al Khaimah pearling village of Al Jazirah Al Hamra once again provides the central backdrop for the Festival, having been its home for the past two years, standing as a bridge between Ras Al Khaimah’s cultural heritage and the contemporary art scene. This year’s Festival also sees two new mini-exhibition sites within the Emirate: the public viewing deck of the UAE’s highest peak Jebel Jais and the Open Park on Al Marjan Island.


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With the theme of Hope — a theme that reflects the re-opening of the arts following the past year’s closures — the Festival presents more than 130 artworks by a diverse mix of artists from nearly 50 countries. Included are film screenings, workshops, guided tours and other events held across the Festival’s various locations. In the year of the UAE’s 50th anniversary, the Festival is looking to the past and exploring the future through the lens of contemporary art at a time when hope is central to daily life.

In a rapidly changing world of new technologies, urbanisation, climate change and COVID-19, it asks the question: how can hope inspire art, and art inspire hope? The Festival is also partnering — for the first time — with Art Dubai and The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, said: “2020 was indeed the most challenging of years for our community and this year’s Festival emerges at a crucial time, early in the new year as our community looks to new beginnings, and with an exciting and enriching programme presented around the theme of Hope — a theme that seems so relevant in these unprecedented times and one that explores the strength and compassion that holds our community together.”

Rak art 1  Secretary Bird by Robert Clark.

Festival Director, Suqrat bin Bisher, said that “we must unite to share the challenges of the past year, to rebuild, and to exchange dreams for the future”.

On show are works by UAE names such as Azza Al Nuaimi, Nuwair Al Hejari, Amani Al Mansoori, Maryam Al Mansoori, Faisal Al Rais, Khalid Al Bloshi, Nawal Al Nuaimi, Saeed Al Emadi, Maitha Al Ali, Abeer Al Rasbi and Abdullah Khouri. They are exhibited alongside the notable GCC talents of Awatif Al Safwan, Gheed Ashor and Om Kalthoom Al Alawi from Saudi Arabia, Esraa Al Enzi and Lamia Ghareeb from Kuwait, Bahrain’s Perryhan Elashmawi and Oman’s Abullah Al Blooshi.

Azza Al Nuaimi is a graphic designer from Ras Al Khaimah, and her ‘Gmar’ from 2020, places heritage and contemporary design in conversation. Emirati photographer Nuwair Al Hejari’s work, ‘Harvest’, shot in Bidya desert in Oman, depicts a bountiful harvest, bringing good tidings for the year ahead. Faisal Al Rais is an Emirati conceptual artist whose ‘Dreamer’ looks at the insurmountable imagination of children and children as dreamers, as they consider what they would like to be when they grow up.

Om Kalthoom Al Alawi’s work, entitled ‘Stand Up Together II’, highlights how, through collaboration, we bring hope for humanity and that people are stronger together than when alone.

The work of several artists from Africa, Asia and Oceania feature from countries such as India, Pakistan, Sudan, Australia, Philippines, South Korea and China, in addition to names from Europe and the United States. Furthermore, four iconic Israeli video artworks, curated by renowned French-Israeli curator Sharon Toval, are exhibited at the Festival. This is the first time since the signing of the Abraham Accords that an Israeli art curator is curating an exhibition in the Emirates. Dubai based Indian contemporary artist Shadab Khan’s ‘Lost in Dream’ points out that while unavoidable circumstances may make us lose track of our dreams, hope will bring us back on track. Buddy Gadiano is a Filipino artist based in Abu Dhabi.

His ‘Smile from Tondo’ conveys the message of positivity, love and hope as the people of the Manila slum of Tondo witness the development of their community after it was transformed into a Government housing project. Filipino photographer Donnel Gumiran’s ‘Give Us Chance (Hope)’ highlights the fact that education is the greatest form of hope. Florencia Clement de Grandprey is a French-American artist. Her work ‘Speak Your Truth’ encourages viewers to find their voice. Mexican artist Alejandra Palos Ortega and Cuban artist Monica Garcia Ricardo specialise in sculpture and installation and abstract paintings on large scale canvases, respectively. Their ‘Make a Wish’ is made of 2,020 paper cranes and speaks of the confinement and isolation experienced during lockdown. This year’s US Honorary Guest Artist is Robert Clark, a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. His artwork is exhibited in the fort at Al Jazirah Heritage Village, as well as Jebel Jais and Al Marjan Island. His theme of birds and their feathers reflect the theme of Hope. The Festival also uses, a web application with image recognition and object detection. The digital companion allows visitors to receive contactless artwork and exhibitor information through smartphones, without download or registration.

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