It is still unclear what happened on April 8, 1961. When the MV Dara passenger liner exploded eight kilometres off the coast of Umm Al Quwain and about 37km north-east of Dubai, newspaper articles suggested that the cause was possible sabotage. The wreck, which claimed 240 lives, is still a source of intrigue for divers and mariners today and it is the subject of an art exhibition that opened last week.
Maisoon Al Saleh presents a solo show at The Ara Gallery in Downtown Dubai that features digital paintings and mixed-media prints inspired by the stories she heard from her grandfather about the incident. Al Saleh also conducted an exploratory dive at the Dara grave site and researched the event from different perspectives – reading letters written by the boat company and police investigators, as well as news articles and stories told by survivors.
“I chose the story behind the Dara because it was hardly known about,” she says. “It is a true story, yet what has been revealed to the public was based on the British media. I worked and researched to reveal the hidden stories and I was able to find people who were survivors of the Dara boat explosion.”
Curated by Janet Bellotto, The Dara Chronicles offers an eerie and factual insight into an unknown chapter of Emirati history that Al Saleh says is “just waiting to be explored”.
• The Dara Chronicles runs until May 31 at The Ara Gallery, Burj Plaza, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai
* Anna Seaman