Three young children sit next to a grandmother and look with deep fascination and concentration at the palm fronds in their henna-decorated hands. As the elderly lady teaches them about the art of khoos, or palm weaving, the image tells a story of the UAE’s national traditions.
Close by, however, is another image that captures the angles of Dubai’s Emirates Towers. In another one, the Burj Khalifa shimmers at night in a strangely crisp black and white image.
The marriage of modernity and tradition that we are so used to experiencing here in the UAE has been distilled into an exhibition held to commemorate the UAE’s 42nd National Day in Art Couture gallery at the Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai’s Festival City.
The exhibition, titled UAE: Contrast of Time, is a collection of images from the UAE’s Goodwill Photographers, a group formed to contribute to the community by raising awareness about various social causes and by organising social and art-related events.
Founded by Slava Noor in 2011, the group have exhibited in The Fridge, The Abu Dhabi Art Hub and in the Dusit Thani hotel in Dubai. This is the first full-scale exhibition in a gallery in Dubai and Noor says it marks a progression.
“We started off small. I am a Muslim convert and I knew a few photographers so we got together over Ramadan and presented an exhibition and it was so popular that we started doing more and more.”
A different perspective
Noor, who is from Kazakhstan, says that she was inspired by a love of photography, not just her own but of the many talented people she saw around her. So instead of waiting for someone else to do something, she started the group for people to get a platform.
“When I came to Dubai I realised it was hard to get started for new artists or photographers. It is difficult to get someone to show your work,” she says. “After a few years of making connections, I realised I had the opportunity to share them and to also do some good.
“I have a strong philosophy. I didn’t want to make money; I wanted to give back and I wanted to find like-minded people.”
Now they have 500 members on Facebook with about 50 active members and they are growing stronger by the month.
The exhibition at Art Couture contains images from all across the country. Some are architectural, some of the desert and marine landscapes and others are of the details of daily life.
“Our goal was to show how the UAE has evolved, so we wanted to show the contrast of the old and the new as well as the iconic images that symbolise the country,” says Noor.
Up and running
Now that the initiative is becoming a success, Noor says that she is satisfied. “It is a lot of work and there are so many things to organise but, overall, it makes me so happy to see these exhibitions come together. I know what it is like to have your art hanging for the first time and when I find people who want to give back and help the community, it also makes me happy. I hope we can have many more successful events.”
UAE: Contrast of Time runs from today until January 7 at Art Couture, Al Badia Golf Club. An official opening event will take place on Saturday from 5pm to 7pm