Seeds of hope sprout amidst eco crisis in Aya Charife’s composition Atrophy - GulfToday

Seeds of hope sprout amidst eco crisis in Aya Charife’s composition Atrophy


Aya Charife’s composition Atrophy uses industrial and natural elements.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Aya Charife is a conceptual interior architect, recognised jewellery designer and an established artist, based in Dubai. Winner of the inaugural Rado Star Prize in 2019, she works on projects which bring into play her varied talents.  Her latest effort is Atrophy – the Sleeping Vase, which is her response to the ecological crisis. In Atrophy, she brings together natural and industrial elements, which indicate the state of tension between man’s attempts to carve out a living from natural resources, which often get out of hand in the quest for revenue.

Atrophy is defined as the process of wasting away, particularly due to neglect. Charife has chosen to show ecological atrophy with the help of a vase, which is yet only sleeping.  The symbol can be seen as a womb or the earth with seeds in it that will surely wither away, if forsaken or mistreated. “The sleeping vase shape illustrates the eventual failure of our society’s growth, if we continue to neglect the needs of our natural habitat,” Charife says.  In Atrophy, she uses a combination of silica based elements and natural seeds, to show the struggle the environment undergoes to grow, despite obstacles created by humans.


The colour purposeful Nat Bowen's art practice is inspired by Chromology

ICCROM-Sharjah Award for Good Practices unveils shortlisted projects

The translucent structure of the form might radiate well-being – but it is also a prompt that though the seeds it contains may sprout, they will also wither, if not cared for. “It reminds us humans of the importance of nurturing our natural resources,” says Charife, who speaks to Gulf Today

How does an artist react to the ecological crisis?

Our duty as designers and artists is to influence, inspire and reveal issues with a creative approach, and find solutions that eventually correlates into better living and species preservation.  This approach creates a series of public interactions that leads to active awareness. By active awareness I mean a change in thinking by the concerned decision makers.  The sleeping vase serves as an inspiration every time we take a deep look at it, and will help us make decisions related to our future healthy habitat.

Why did you choose the vase as a symbol? Does it have a universal meaning?

We say “mother nature” in reference to the womb that holds life. The vase as a structure is like a womb, a nurturer and a keeper of both thoughts and well-being: it is capable of renewal and regeneration.

Does the vase stand for the unpolluted Garden of Eden?

An unpolluted Garden of Eden is the ultimate approach and dream, yes; however, the ugly truth of the future carries a different meaning, if events tend to fail our garden.  The vase is viewed like a half full cup of water with the tendency to grow — this perspective allows the viewer to watch the growth and exposure of the contents of the vase, while leaving him to wonder about the human impact on nature.

Aya Charife is based in the UAE.

The seeds implanted in the vase are alive, yet the vase is drooping. Explain.

Nurture sometimes overrules Nature; this unbalanced relationship has created a massive ecological issue. Despite our uncaring efforts, which are doomed to failure if not sorted out sooner than later, nature will emerge victorious, regardless. Multiple crises has left living seeds trapped in neglected decay.

Why should there be a conflict between industry and environment? Industry supports the green movement...

The conflict is not between industry and the environment - the decisions of industry have to serve the environment. If the former fails to think of social sustainability which impacts entire communities, it will impact everyone, since no man is an island, ultimately. The vase serves as a responsibility reminder towards our environment.

What ambiance do you hope to invoke from the ice cream yellow and dark chocolate features in your work?

Behind the dark reminder is a larger picture of hope, and happy memories such as childhood enjoyment of ice cream, which are revisited.  The composition is an attempt to capture the current dilemma in an attractive and romantic frame, bringing back memories of warmth from our childhood for the refreshing start of a new journey, if we manage to restore our environment. 

Doesn’t nature have to be tamed to be useful to man? Put in a vase, so to say? Otherwise, the planet will become a jungle or desert ...

Should we choose random natural growth over an engineered one? My answer is yes. Now we strive to serve human needs without giving back. This means an engineered aspect is selective, whilst the naturally created is symbiotic. Taming to suit human needs must be meditative, and nature cooperates to heal, provided we give back equally, that is.  The vase symbolises nature’s adaptation to a man-made environment. If natural intelligence can coexist with human intelligence, the outcome will be positive, and won’t have negative connotations. 

Doesn’t death result in new birth? Won’t the vase awaken from its sleep?

The place where the seeds lie in the vase will be left hollow after the decay of the seeds or their sprouting, thus creating the space for a wider exposure. This factor inevitably results in the future awakening of the vase, where larger natural elements will fill the empty space, instead of just seeds, since nature abhors a vacuum. Thus what started as the minimal existential home of small seeds will give way to larger elements, and maximal symbiosis overtakes. It will make the vase home to bigger natural resources.


Related articles