Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

A huge new mural appears in Dubai Media City: we meet the artist behind it

Rami Afifi tells us about the mural that has popped up near the Amphitheatre, including all the hidden characters you should watch out for

Dubai's Media City has a colourful new mural, designed by Palestinian artist Rami Afifi. 
Dubai's Media City has a colourful new mural, designed by Palestinian artist Rami Afifi. 

Media City is already a vibrant part of Dubai – resplendent with the city's creatives, festivals and concerts, as well as print, digital and broadcast companies; it's just become even more colourful, with the addition of eye-catching new street art that now runs the length of one of the area's busiest roads.

A towering fence on Al Falak Street, which stretches alongside the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre opposite Media One Hotel, has been given a makeover with a bright new mural that immortalises the people working around it.

In reality, the sprawling mural was only ever supposed to be a bit of colour to spruce up doors of a lift, conceptualised about six months ago, but Palestinian artist Rami Afifi's initial design was just too good.

"The director of marketing for Tecom was an ex-colleague at Leo Burnett. We were chatting and he mentioned that it was weird that there was no public art in Dubai's original creative hub," Afifi tells The National.

"He thought it would be great to commission me to create some pieces for the DMC elevators to brighten the place up and bring some inspiration to the residents."

The following Media City archetypes were zeroed in on as subjects: the designer, techie, CEO, reporter, photographer, director, and radio jockey. The decision was then made to erect the work somewhere more public than an elevator.

"I filled the visuals with Media City locations, inside jokes about the advertising world, little tributes to the friends I'd made and the people that I'd met within it," Afifi, who is himself a Media City designer, says.

"After seeing the work, the team were so happy with the work they asked me to adapt it for the amphitheatre fence."

While the mural is mostly made up of caricatures of the main Media City creatives mentioned above, Afifi also made sure to drop in some personal touches, too.

Among the journalists and the designers, are characters with real meaning: his wife, Stan Lee (he was one of Afifi's heroes and passed away while the work was being created), one of his best friends, a shout-out to a bar he and his friends once frequented, Eric Clapton crying in the heavens (in reference to his song Tears in Heaven) and a Ronald McDonald character – a reference to "long nights at the office where we'd treat ourselves to an ice cream when we'd be in until 3am working on an impending deadline".

A portion of the new mural outside the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.
A portion of the new mural outside the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.

Then there is the tribute to his three-year-old daughter, her two favourite characters: Spiderman and Batman.

"There's a lot of randomness to it, but also a lot of references, inside jokes and commentary. I'll often slip the most important people in my life into it somewhere, like my wife and daughter. In the mural she's the blonde lady with the glasses and notes, as she teaches a lot of the foreign creatives in Media City English," he says.

"I also really enjoy colouring my work, colour play is in fact one of the most important aspects. What I end up doing is essentially creating a page from a colouring book that I can play with."

Though the colourful piece may seem like the work of an established artist, Afifi, who used to find himself "doodling in Chemistry or English Literature", says he "didn't want to fall into the cliche of struggling artist" and so "has a proper 9-5".

"I used to get angry at my brother for not colour co-ordinating his Lego creations," he says.

"I also loved to doodle and trace my favourite cartoon characters. I didn't realise that it would become my art style and I spent a good 15 years experimenting with different styles and techniques before coming back to my doodles."

So, after immortalising the news folk of Media City, are any more far flung areas the next to be caricatured? Not yet.

"After collaborations with KFC, Nike and Uber, my next goal is to design a limited edition Coke can," he says.

"I've also been trying to get my own Nike skateboarding shoe. In the meantime, you can find me working as creative director on Anthgly, the Gulf's first skate brand."

Rami Afifi is a designer by day, and has been producing art as a hobby since a young age. 
Rami Afifi is a designer by day, and has been producing art as a hobby since a young age.

Updated: February 27, 2019 05:09 PM

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