x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fakie's Skate Biladi to be a marriage of art and action

At a Dubai community arts studio, artists let loose on a unique canvas: skateboards.

The artist Mark Cloud transformed the beaten-up skateboard on the left into the thing of beauty on the right for the Fakie event.  Courtesy FN Design / Tashkeel
The artist Mark Cloud transformed the beaten-up skateboard on the left into the thing of beauty on the right for the Fakie event. Courtesy FN Design / Tashkeel

The life of a well-used skateboard is etched into its surface. Scrapes here, chipped wood there and, in the event of a particularly nasty ending, it is split in two and becomes only a totem of former glories.

For the first Fakie event in 2010, FN Design Studio and its founding director, Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum, gave clean, new skateboards to local artists and asked them to go creative on their surfaces. But for the second instalment, in an exhibition opening today at Tashkeel, a community arts centre-cum-studio complex in Nad Al Sheba, Sheikha Wafa has offered instead the rough look of a lived-in skateboard to the participating artists.

"I called up a friend who had a stack of skateboards sitting under his bed. He'd learnt to skate on them, so some of them are broken into multiple pieces, they're dusty and old and scratched," she says.

"He very kindly gave us 30 of them, so it's a unique collaboration between the skater, via the markings left on his board, and the artist."

The result is a significant development from the 2010 exhibition: rather than simply letting loose with graphical flair and illustration, many of the artists have taken a more conceptual approach to the humble board.

"There were no restrictions, you can do whatever you want, but the most important thing is for you to have fun and remember that the guy who has donated his board has worked hard," says Sheikha Wafa. "One of my favourites is by an artist whose day job is in fashion and as a hat designer. The skateboard has been turned into a set of giant shoulder pads, akin to the type American footballers wear. Another artist has fashioned it into the belt used on a kimono. Myself, I designed a little table, because I'm into furniture design."

Fakie, which does include a number of graphical and painted works as well, runs concurrently with a series of skate- and surf-orientated workshops at Tashkeel until mid-February.

Weekly sessions teaching the rudiments of how to ride four wheels or the waves are being offered to the community, and culminate in a competitive skate-off on February 17 under the title of "Skate Biladi" (Skate My Country) in a specially constructed skate park designed to evoke the word Tashkeel in Arabic script. Made from 150 sheets of Finnish birchwood and produced in collaboration with German design firm G Ramps, initial images of the skate park show a challenging terrain of half-pipes, lips and humps.

"We deliberated on the design for two weeks," says Bradley Kirr, "implementing different skateable features and elements into the tapestry of Arabic type. We finally came up with something that had a multitude of possibilities for skaters to ride and was, most importantly, extremely fun." 

Skate Biladi is described as a "social media skateboard experiment", a competition in which instead of a panel of judges rating the skills of the city's skaters, the onus is delegated to Facebook-members among the onlookers, who can cast their votes via the social media website.

The skater with the greatest number of Facebook "likes" at the end of play wins, while photographers on-site who capture the best shots of the action will also be rewarded.

It is a novel idea, and one that both Tashkeel and Sheikha Wafa hope will engage the community with both an active and artistic dialogue. "We like to make events that bring people together and make them talk," she says. "It's a process of breaking down the traditional barriers of being just an art event."

Fakie runs until February 17 at Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba, Dubai; the Tashkeel skatepark is now open. Skate Biladi takes place on the final day of the exhibition and opens at 2pm on February 17. Saturday workshops are on January 28 and February 11, with options of learning how to skate or surf, as well as classes in street-art stencilling and painting your own skateboard. For more information or to apply, see www.tashkeel.org or call 04 336 3313

clord@thenational.ae