Dubai // As far as national symbols go, the UAE evokes a number of powerful images.
There are the colours of the UAE flag, as well as sand dunes, oases, camels, falcons and the country's iconic buildings.
But for a group of Emirati photographers, whose works were showcased yesterday in Dubai, the task was to look beyond the cliches, and to give a personal interpretation of the country's history. The brief was given by Daman Investments, an asset management company that teamed up with the Dubai gallery, Tashkeel, to commission a photography collection. The collection will commemorate next year's fortieth anniversary of the UAE.
"It was about showing the diversity of the UAE and the talent available here," said Shehab Gargash, the managing director of Daman Investments.
The works will also be visible through the company's annual calendar, also launched yesterday. This is the fifth year in a row that Daman Investments is showcasing local art through its calendar.
Each of the 15 pictures tells a different story.
Maitha Demlthan's work, Treasure, shows two images side by side. One is that of a woman's hand playing with sand, and another shows where sand and water merge.
"I thought it will be interesting to create work for National Day but without using a palm tree or a camel," said the 21-year-old artist from Dubai.
"My ancestors and my parents used to live in the desert. I use sand to symbolise where it all began. It is surreal that the people who once used to live in the desert now have the highest building in the world."
Mixing sand with water represents the blend of coastal and desert traditions that is the modern-day UAE, said Ms Demlthan, whose work has been showcased in group shows in Venice and Berlin, besides the UAE.
Hamdan al Shamsi's work, We are One (in Loving UAE), shows six images of a young man in national dress, juxtaposed one next to the other. In each of the six images, the man's hands are extended in a different sign language gesture, spelling, "I love UAE".
"We are all united, no matter who is the person, young, old, or with special needs," said the 29 year-old from Al Ain. "The UAE is focusing on people with special needs who are getting care and attention," he said about the inspiration for his work.
While most of the works tried to tell the country's history in a surprising way, some paid tribute to its best-known symbols. The 20-year-old composer and filmmaker Mohammad Ahmed Fikree chose to submit a black-and-white photo of the Burj Khalifa.
"This is the icon for Dubai," he said.