x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

To have and to have not Anna Seaman talks to Fadwa Al Qasem about her Safa Park art project, which ­interrogates materialism

The artist Fadwa Al Qasem talks about her open-air art project in Dubai’s Safa Park this weekend.

The Palestinian artist and author Fadwa Al Qasem is making a work in Safa Park this weekend in Dubai. Courtesy Fadwa Al Qasem
The Palestinian artist and author Fadwa Al Qasem is making a work in Safa Park this weekend in Dubai. Courtesy Fadwa Al Qasem

If you go for a stroll on Friday through Dubai’s Safa Park, don’t be surprised if you come across ghost people or figures made up only of clothes and accessories. They are part of an outdoor art project called Don’t Become Your Belongings, where Fadwa Al Qasem is exploring the way we define ourselves by what we wear or own. To stimulate this thinking, she is constructing “empty shells” of people in the public area of the park to highlight the hollowness of our attachment to our belongings.

“The aim is to draw attention to the huge amount of belongings we keep, but which we don’t use or need, and to suggest we give them away to those who may use or need them,” she explains.

On Friday morning at around 10am, Al Qasem will set up the art installation all over the park and leave flyers to inform passers-by about the nature of the initiative. She has printed them in English, Arabic, ­Tagalog and Urdu.

“I want to do something that gives back to the community and encourages people to connect with each other,” she says. “It was also really important to me to do something that doesn’t leave anything behind, not to pollute the environment anymore.”

At around 5pm, Al Qasem will return to the park and give away all the items used in the ­installation.

“This project has no religious or ­political message. It is about art, community and giving,” she says.

Al Qasem is a Palestinian artist who was born in ­Libya but grew up in the UK, Kuwait, Dubai and Canada and who has now been living in Dubai for the past 16 years. She says that her nomadic lifestyle has given her a “gipsy spirit” and has made her very aware of the amount of useless stuff that we accumulate in a lifetime. She hopes that her installation will provoke people to think twice about the value they place on the items they surround themselves with – and to consider letting go.

• Don’t Become Your Belongings is a one-day art ­installation in Safa Park, Dubai, taking place on Friday. For more information, visit www.ifadwa.weebly.com

aseaman@thenational.ae