x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Emirati artist’s love of UAE royals led her to create almost 1,000 portraits

The works of Lateefa were so admired by the grandson of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, that he sponsored her exhibition at Emirates Palace hotel.

Emirati artist Lateefa Mohammed examines some of her works at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Satish Kumar / The National
Emirati artist Lateefa Mohammed examines some of her works at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Satish Kumar / The National

ABU DHABI // An artist’s unique style of portraying the country’s Rulers impressed the President’s grandson so much that he organised an exhibition of her work at Emirates Palace hotel.

The work of Abu Dhabi native Lateefa Mohammed is created using everyday materials such as pencil, chalk, oil and water, but the results are extraordinary.

The portraits caught the eye of Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan bin Hamdan, grandson of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, recently. He sponsored her three-day exhibition, Shukran Khalifa from the Happiest People, which is organised by Al Najim Culture and Events and ends today.

Lateefa, her artist’s name, started painting at the age of 14 and has created almost 1,000 portraits of sheikhs from the UAE’s royal families, most of which have been presented to their subjects.

Among others, she has drawn the UAE’s founding President, Sheikh Zayed, the current President, Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Now, she only has 10 portraits at home and 31 at the exhibition. They cost between Dh2,000 and Dh6,000.

Her technique uses only the simplest materials.

“I received criticism from other artists about the way I do it but, for me, art is not a school or specific technique you follow. Art is something you like, you do it,” she said.

“Sometime I open YouTube to learn how they draw portraits, drawing eyes and lips, just taking some examples and advice, but never did I do any art schooling,” she said.

Lateefa, who has been nicknamed “The Nation’s Artist”, has a major wish. All presidents have their own private photographer, so why not a private artist?

“I would love to become the private artist for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed,” she said.

She has spent the last three years working as a professional artist, putting in many hours every day.

“Every day I start drawing portraits from 2pm until 11pm. I just want to express my appreciation for all the work and effort our rulers put in to make us the happiest people in the world,” she said.

“Since childhood I loved paintings, which is now a passion and profession for me, since I left architecture a few years back.

“I believe that whatever a person loves to do by heart, [he or she] should do in life. I plan to open my own art gallery here, where only portraits of sheikhs and members of royal families are exhibited.”

Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan opened the exhibition for her on Thursday, a gesture that merely cemented her love of the ruling families.

“Mostly artists draw what they love. You can’t draw what you don’t love. And, for me, there is nothing more loveable than the royal family, as I am part of this country. If I don’t love my royal family then whom am I going to love?” she said.

Although she studied architecture at university, Lateefa found that she got more excited about portraiture, and this extended even to the children of the ruling families.

She stumbled upon an Instagram account called “Al Nahyan Kids”, which contained pictures of the children of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, so she created portraits of them too. When she heard that Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan and his mother, the President’s daughter, liked a portrait, she gave the work to her.

The current exhibition at Emirates Palace is her second after showing some of her portraits at the Abu Dhabi Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition two years ago.