Although Sikka Art Fair is only in its third year, it is quickly establishing its niche in what could be seen as a saturated art fair market. This year Sikka opens only 10 days before Art Dubai and one day after Sharjah’s Biennial starts but organisers are confident the fair will be on a par with its neighbouring events.
Sikka this year features 72 commissioned works from 14 disciplines including visual and performing art, film, animation, spoken word, music and literature.
Organised by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), -Sikka is the only fair dedicated solely to Emirati and UAE-based artists. Saeed Al Nabouda, the acting director general for the authority, says that the event is “the ultimate platform” for those artists to “work and engage with their international counterparts”.
What makes it so special?
Held within the houses of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the fair allows audiences to see the roots of the country’s heritage with replica wind towers, palm trees and winding alleyways near Dubai Creek.
Whether it is an exhibition of sculptures, an open mic session or an exploration of stop-frame animation, audiences will be spoilt for choice. New initiatives will include Drawdeck, an interactive drawing experience, and the NBX Project, a series of shipping containers that will tour the UAE presenting multidisciplinary initiatives to the public.
There will also be 15 live music performances under the artistic direction of Kamal Musallam, the renowned oud and guitar player, who will also produce a CD at the end of the show.
What do the experts think?
Antonia Carver, the fair director of Art Dubai and a member of Sikka’s selection committee, says she saw a maturity from the applicants, who are exploring different media and raising the quality of their work.
“It was exciting to see artists in the UAE willing to experiment,” Carver says. “With as much objectivity as possible, the fair is truly special and stands alone internationally. It is hard to define it as a fair or a festival. It’s almost ... an art school. The artist is nurtured from the time they apply, through the mentorships to the event itself. This is what makes the fair innovative and crucial to the landscape of the arts within the UAE.”
Mattar bin Lahej, the owner of Mattar Gallery and another member of the committee, agrees, saying that the works are remarkable and that Dubai Culture is raising the standard of art in the region.
What about the artists?
For many artists, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Omar Adaoui, who will be launching The Animation Chamber, an educational platform to help people make their own animation, says that
the fair offers the ideal platform.
“Our concept for now is based around Sikka. We are using the space of the town houses and we have incorporated the stories of the people who live in this neighbourhood into our stories,” he says. “But we are not just thinking of a one-time show. We are thinking of a long-term plan and Sikka has given us the opportunity to start out.”
Noor Al Suwaidi, one of the commissioned visual artists, who will create works on paper for the fair, says Sikka “is bringing so many different disciplines together. I will meet musicians and spoken word artists. It could lead to collaborations in the future and that is what is exciting.”
Ÿ Sikka 2013 will run from March 14 to 24 in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. For more information visit www.sikka.ae
Artists in residence
Sikka’s annual Artist in Residence (AiR) programme has been under way since January. A joint effort of Dubai Culture, the Delfina Foundation, Tashkeel and Art Dubai, the collaboration puts three Emirati artists – Reem Falaknaz, Ammar Al Attar and Ebtisam Abdulaziz – alongside three international artists – Yudi Noor, Joe Namy and Dina Danish – and a curator, Bérénice Saliou, to work in a town house in Al Fahidi.
Saliou says the artists have vastly different persuasions so there will be no theme to the exhibition other than the fact they are all working in the area.
“It will be interesting to see how they engage with the space and the area around them,” Saliou says.
Falaknaz, who works with analogue photography, has been visiting the traders on the Creek and borrowing their personal possessions to tell their stories. “I feel the sense of old Dubai here. Lots of the people have been here for generations and I love listening to their stories. I’m hoping this encourages people to visit this area more often.”
Namy, a Lebanese sound and visual artist, has been exploring the politics of music. He has selected an old spiritual dance called the Noban and has been trying to contact the few existing troupes who still perform it.
“The dance is not practised too much so it has been an interesting process trying to reach these people. The way the troupes are kept alive and the whole idea around why we hold onto these dances and the history of them is what interests me. My art will explore that through a variety of mediums.”