A designer makes waves at MENASA Collection.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Expo 2020 Dubai’s Design and Crafts Programme has launched MENASA – the Emirati Design Platform which showcases more than 40 local and international designers who tell stories of the UAE through curated design collections.
Millions of visitors to Expo 2020 (Oct. 1 – Mar. 31, 2022) will have the opportunity to explore and experience traditional Emirati crafts and traditions through a contemporary lens, with MENASA featuring seven design collaborations between local and international artisans and designers under the title of Craft Stories and Designer of the Week – a showcase of twenty four designers and organisations from across the UAE, highlighting the breadth and vibrancy of the country’s contemporary design scene.
Dr Hayat Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President, Arts and Culture, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The collective approach of MENASA, which means ‘platform’ in Arabic, is inspired by the theme and spirit of Expo 2020 Dubai, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. “The content that we are bringing to Expo through MENASA is innovative and intriguing, and will capture the hearts and imaginations of our visitors. We are very proud of this programme and believe that it will help to ignite a new appreciation of Emirati crafts as a contemporary and living expression of our cultural identity – locally and globally. “By bringing together artisans and designers from the UAE and around the world, we are nurturing a rich cultural and creative dialogue that will contribute to a meaningful legacy after Expo 2020 closes its doors.”
Commissioned and curated by MENASA, Craft Stories is a dialogue between local and international designers and artisans who were invited to explore and represent Emirati crafts and culture in a new way. Merging the skills and rich heritage of Emirati artisans with contemporary creativity and innovative techniques and materials, each story is a multi-layered journey that reflects many facets of the UAE, its landscape, people, traditions, values and identity. A series of documentaries, shot on location around the UAE, will also be exhibited alongside the design collections, drawing visitors further into the intimate worlds of artisans and their crafts and traditions, including clay, safeefa (palm frond weaving), talli (embroidery), sadu (bedouin weaving), gargour making (wire-crafted fish traps), pearl diving and coffee making.
8,000 Waves: The Pearl Diving Story is MENASA’s debut Craft Story. It is a collaboration between Spanish design studio Todomuta and Emirati design studio Asateer, founded by Mohammed Al Suwaidi, the grandson of a pearl diver that specialises in the creation of handcrafted products from mother of pearl and raw materials.Crafted in metal and inlaid with mother-of-pearl cut from oyster shells farmed locally in Ras Al Khaimah, the rhythmic, reflective forms of the collection evoke the 8,000-year history of pearl diving in the Emirates, the waves of the Arabian Gulf, the reflections of the sea, the sun and the light, and the shape of the boats that once carried the pearl divers for months at a time. The collection includes a feature wall sculpture and limited-edition candleholders and incense burners. Designer of the Week will present a unique snapshot of the thriving creative activity across the UAE by representing twenty four UAE-based established and emerging designers, as well as public and private organisations that support local crafts and the design community, be it through funding, promotion, providing exhibition space or safeguarding skills.
Many of those highlighted will present new collections created for MENASA; they have expanded their practice into fresh design disciplines, with products including homewares, fashion accessories and local crafts.
Each product will be showcased within the MENASA space. From traditional handcrafts to digital design, and from product design to illustration and fashion, the diversity of UAE-based designers’ disciplines, practices, materials and products will be explored through these displays. Samer Yamani, Curator, MENASA – Emirati Design Platform, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Crafts have a special, innate power to communicate a local culture, a nation and its identity. “Giving this power a poetic approach, we used Emirati crafts as a communication tool and merged it with design, new technologies and materials to convey more local stories and to intensify the experience for our visitors through our exclusive design collections. “MENASA is presenting the diversity and vibrancy of the crafts and design scene in the UAE as a testimony of this historic moment, celebrating its Golden Jubilee and hosting the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.”
The design pieces and collections will be exhibited and available for sale from MENASA’s design space, which will feature a 13-metre window display, designed by Carmelo Zappulla and Rami Al Ali, merging 3D printing with local crafts. Located at the ground level of the Rove Expo 2020 hotel, next to Al Wasl Plaza, MENASA – Emirati Design Platform will be open daily for the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai. Designers and crafts organisations at MENASA – Emirati Design Platform is drawn from eleven countries, across four continents. UAE designers and organisations include Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts, Alia Bin Omair, Ammar Kalo, Bil Arabi, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, Khalid Shafar, and Tashkeel. International designers and design brands include BD Barcelona Design (Spain), Estudio Campana (Brazil), Iwan Maktabi (Lebanon), Klove Studio (India) and Nicolas Jebran (Lebanon).
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