Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) has announced it is hosting Lebanese artist Simar Halawani at Al Safa Art and Design Library, as part of its Artist in Residence programme. Dubai Culture has allocated a workshop space for Halawani, who obtained a cultural visa, at Al Safa Art and Design Library, starting from July 1, for a period of six months. Halawani specialises in visual arts, and she will work on a project titled ‘Change and Transformation,’ which deals with people’s relationships with the sea in terms of migration and mobility, transformation and adaptation, and change. She will be producing thirty five paintings that will culminate in an exhibition in the library, that would highlight her creativity. The show will continue for a period ranging from four to six months.
The artist will also host weekly interactive workshops for students with reference to the title of the exhibition for an hour and half, motivating them to read and analyse visual arts, study the paintings, and work on redrawing and colouring them. She will also include a number of students in training sessions through which they will learn about the types of visual arts, especially drawing and engraving. The idea is to make them later draw their own paintings so they may express their ties to the geographical space to which they belong.
The training sessions will conclude with the presentation of participants’ works in the exhibition, to motivate the youth to understand and develop their artistic abilities. The drawings will be evaluated, and the best ones will be selected to be displayed in a dedicated corner in one of the galleries. Eiman Al Hammadi, Acting Manager of Libraries Affairs Section at Dubai Culture, said: “Dubai is a city rich in its inspiring cultural heritage and prestigious international cultural standing.
“Through the Artist in Residence programme, we offer artists from around the world a valuable opportunity to interact with the emirate’s rich cultural and artistic scene, deepen their understanding of local heritage and values, and draw inspiration from them in their work, by investing in the cultural assets that we invest in.
“Al Safa Art and Design Library was selected because it specialises in creative fields and includes large spaces that allow artists to carry out paintings of multiple sizes and organise workshops with students.” Al Hammadi added: “The programme is also part of our efforts to support Emirati and resident artists, highlight and encourage their talents, and enhance opportunities for exchange between artists and the local community by making culture available everywhere and to everyone, while stimulating the active participation of all society members, which contributes to strengthening Dubai’s position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent as well as achieving the objectives of the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy.”
About her project, Halawani, said: “I am interested in the social impact of the project, and I will organise workshops and training sessions to raise awareness and educate students about the impact of visual art and interaction with geographical space as well as about the importance of arts in daily life. I will also give part of the proceeds of the project to a charitable organisation in the emirate.”
She added: “I would like to conduct an exhibition of visual paintings on the relationship of man with the element of water, specifically the sea, under the title ‘Change and Transformation.’
“I found it necessary to return to the depth of the sea and its marine creatures through my paintings to explore the existential relationship between man and water.
“What struck me during my stay in the UAE is that this relationship has continued despite the urban development that has taken place in an innate and spontaneous manner. “Additionally, the language of water has remained alive; a language that constantly stimulates my childhood passion for the sea, which I carried with me from my country, Lebanon.”
The UAE has sea borders to two very distinct water bodies: the largest coastline borders the embayment-like Gulf, while the East coast has a border to the more oceanic Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea. The country grew up on pearl diving and seaborne trade. Today, a huge part of its economy and day-to-day lives still rely on the sea – from trade, to fishing, leisure and tourism. In recent years, the sea has become even more significant, supplying most of the nation’s drinking water through desalination.
Halawani specialises in drawing and engraving. She holds a master’s degree in illustration from Italy and works as a freelance illustrator for children’s books with many well-known authors in Lebanon and the Middle East. She won the Best Book Award from the Arab Thought Foundation 21 for her book ‘The Elephant Painter’ (the book is only available in Arabic) in 2017, in addition to the Best Drawing Award from the International Board on Books for Young People in Italy in 2016 for the book ‘A Fish I Dreamed of’ (the book is only available in Arabic) by Academia.
The Artist in Residence programme is a segment of the Authority’s efforts to establish an incubating environment that would ensure the care and encouragement of creative artistic talents in Dubai. The residency provides artists with an integrated model and platform to deepen their practical experiences, and attempts to motivate them to create new works of art. Activating bridges of communication between artists and society and with the cultural and artistic scene in the emirate, is also part of the programme, that sheds light on local culture and heritage.
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