An old photo of a family. WAM
'Lest We Forget: The Universality of Family Photographs' will open on June 12 and run until July 28, complemented by a talk on opening night and a book.
Curated by the grassroots arts and heritage initiative Lest We Forget, in collaboration with Spanish artist María José Rodríguez Escolar, the collection brings together disparate photographs taken by unrelated families living worlds apart - in the UAE and Spain - during the final decades of the 20th Century. Viewed side by side, an unexpected synergy springs forth, revealing commonalities that resonate deeply in the several family photographs.
By showing the heritage of the UAE in an international context, the exhibition and book underpin Warehouse421's ambition to drive locally-relevant narratives through thought-provoking works and using it to bridge the UAE to the rest of the world.
Faisal Al Hassan, Manager at Warehouse421, said, "We are proud of our continuous collaboration with the Lest We Forget team on what will be a captivating exploration into our region's history and the humanity that unites us. This sentiment fits seamlessly with Warehouse421's values, and we look forward to engaging our community in the UAE's storied past told through pictorial form."
Dr Michele Bambling, Creative Director of Lest We Forget said of the new exhibition, "Family photographs express interest in, and affection for, the people, places, activities and moments that are most close and dear. Those who took the photographs, appeared in the photographs, kept the photographs and viewed the photographs represent circles of human connectivity.
"In the context of this exhibition and book, these family photographs have been removed from the privacy of their albums and displayed publicly, in juxtaposition, to reveal commonalities of human experience, thought and feeling. In the intimacy of the photographs, we recognise similitudes between different people and cultures – a fitting tribute to the UAE's Year of Tolerance," Bambling added.
To complement the Year of Tolerance, a talk on the exhibition will be held on the evening of June 12 to bring together three unique perspectives on the similarities that exist between people living in different parts of the world. Featuring guest speaker Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State, curator Dr. Michele Bambling, and artist María José Rodríguez Escolar, the speakers will reflect on the importance of vernacular photographs as expressions of cultural identity and consider how the sharing of family photographs can foster cross-cultural understanding in a uniquely powerful way.
The Year of Tolerance in the UAE also coincides with the fifth anniversary since the establishment of Lest We Forget under the auspices of the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Over the past several years, the initiative has worked tirelessly to create a robust series of exhibitions and books that delve into salient aspects of Emirati cultural identity. The collection showed life and social history in the UAE from an unprecedented viewpoint, and it was this artist-book that caught the attention of Spanish artist María José Rodríguez Escolar, who noticed the resemblance of those to her own family photo albums.
Artist María José Rodríguez Escolar explains, "It was while I was exploring my own roots and painting my own family photographs, that I realised the similarities between the composition and context of these relics from the two cultures. This realisation gave rise to our collaboration, and the universality revealed through comparisons of Emirati and Spanish photographs has been completely fascinating. It shows that we are more alike than different, and that 'we' share profound human affinities."
Lest We Forget: The Universality of Family Photographs will open on June 12 until July 28 at Warehouse421 in Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi — admission is free.
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