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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Ductac hosts The Pan-Arabia Enquirer exhibition

A new exhibition at Ductac brings us closer to the region’s best-loved satire website, The Pan-Arabia Enquirer.
This is the potentially important napkin. "Two yeas ago, the Pan-Arabia Enquirer broke the story of a Dubai resident who had drawn up a solution to the Israel/Palestine problem only to leave it in a bar one night. This is thought to be the solution, later found in an ashtray. Unfortunately, scientists from the UN have been unable to decipher what it says.
This is the potentially important napkin. "Two yeas ago, the Pan-Arabia Enquirer broke the story of a Dubai resident who had drawn up a solution to the Israel/Palestine problem only to leave it in a bar one night. This is thought to be the solution, later found in an ashtray. Unfortunately, scientists from the UN have been unable to decipher what it says.

Think of some of the world’s great exhibitions: the 1900 Paris Expo was pretty significant. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s recent Bowie retrospective got rave reviews. The Pyongyang Mass Games are always an impressive spectacle. Now stop thinking, because Dubai’s Ductac has outdone them all with Dalai Lama in Bananarama Karama Shawarma Drama: A Retrospective.

The exhibition looks back at the work of The Pan-Arabia Enquirer, the self-proclaimed “world’s only seven-star satirical news site”, which has been bringing an irreverent take to the region’s news since 2010 (and even before that in paper form as The Dubai Enquirer).

For the uninitiated, the site is a kind of shawarma-flavoured version of The Onion and from humble beginnings it has become a key part of many people’s daily online routine, including Ductac’s curator Simon Coates.

“For many of us in Dubai, the site has become part and parcel of the fabric of what we do,” says Coates. “The commission is part of a whole series, but we didn’t want everything to be traditional art. I was keen to bring something into Ductac that was slightly unexpected, and I think the Enquirer has everything to do with creativity, so it was the perfect fit.”

The exhibition will feature artefacts from the Enquirer’s glorious history, including a digitally restored version of its first issue and a curated selection of telegrams from readers. Coates is clearly in no doubt about the weight of responsibility that comes with displaying such seminal pieces.

“These are obviously artefacts of huge historical gravity from the Enquirer’s archives,” he says. “Rather than just sitting them in the gallery, we’ll be displaying them as you’d find them in a museum, which is absolutely right for articles of such significance.”

Finally, bearing in mind that the site’s creators are a notoriously secretive bunch, I ask if he had a hard time tracking down a spokesperson to arrange the exhibition. He has the look of Magnum, P I as he replies: “Not really. There’s an email address on the site.”

• Dalai Lama in Bananarama Karama Shawarma Drama: A Retrospective runs at Ductac from today as part of Ductac’s permanent collection

cnewbould@thenational.ae

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