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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Framing a resolution around a collection of warm memories

I have a pile of family photographs, honeymoon memories, posters and drawings that have only managed to collect dust over the past year or so

A gallery wall is the ideal way to display memories. Getty
A gallery wall is the ideal way to display memories. Getty

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to finally get around to putting up a gallery wall at home – a wall covered in clusters of photographs and art hung in an assortment of different frames. I have a pile of family photographs, honeymoon memories, posters and drawings that have only managed to collect dust over the past year or so, thanks to my laziness.

But, I’ve decided there’s no more procrastinating – I’ve promised myself that come January, the wall behind my grey sofa will finally get some colour. I already have pieces that will be featured, but my pile of wall-ready decor lacks the actual frames needed, and although Dubai has plenty of options for custom home furnishings, I’ve always tended to go for the quickest and easiest options – basically, whatever I can find in Ikea.

Numerous trips back and forth to Satwa for curtains, cushion covers and other upholstery materials have never sounded tempting. But, frames are another matter. Though there are quite a few basic picture frames at the Swedish home furnishings store, they’re mainly plain and bland. A good gallery wall, in my opinion, needs a mixture of thicknesses and colours.

So, upon taking the advice of my mother, I find myself at The Antique Museum in Al Quoz. As I enter, I’m met with life-sized statues, traditional ornaments and shelves of UAE souvenirs – mugs and keychains mainly. The warehouse-style building is actually more like a massive gift shop aimed at tourists, but to my surprise, the back of the store boasts a somewhat hidden framing facility.

While instantly attracted to one of the souvenirs – a neon pink alarm clock in the shape of a domed mosque – I remind myself I am here on a specific mission, so it’s straight to the room with the frames.

Two walls are covered with different styles, each shown as a corner cutting, stuck on the wall using Velcro. There are thin, minimalist options in plain whites, blacks, pinks and blues, and there are ostentatious offerings in the form of gold, baroque-style frames with ornate carvings, fit for a palace. And, there’s everything in between.

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Speedy and straightforward is how I imagined this household errand to be. Half an hour tops. But as I set foot inside, I instantly become like a child in a candy shop. Overcome with adrenaline and enthusiasm, I start picking out my favourites.

A mint-green frame with rose-gold brush strokes catches my eye along with a silver one bordered by a row of gold dots makes it to my shortlist too. I then start emptying my canvas tote – I’ve brought along the art so I can match each one. My first batch includes a photograph of my husband and I feeding lemurs in Zanzibar; the boarding pass from our honeymoon to the Maldives; a pink print that says “Marhaba” in gold foiled letters; and the cover of my favourite issue of Luxury magazine.

I have 11 pieces to frame in total, and realise if I want my gallery wall to be perfect I’ll have to spend some time here making sure every detail is just right. As I move around, I overhear a customer negotiating the price for a frame that will display an antique silver necklace she bought from Oman. And, 45 minutes later, as I’m still deciding between frames, another woman walks in carrying figurines from Ghana. She asks for a special acrylic box to be custom-made to protect and exhibit the treasures.

My mind jumps to other things I have besides what I have in hand that may be worthy of being framed. I begin to think why should I stick to two-dimensional, paper goods?

I recall a scene from a distant aunt’s home in San Francisco, where her own traditional wedding outfit had been framed and put up on a wall of her living room.

Too often memories are boxed and stored away and we’ve all become so digitally-driven, that we’ve replaced physical photo albums for “favourites” folders on our phones.

Taking our camera film to Kodak to print out photos seems like an ancient pastime, and consequently, framing photos seems to have also lost its significance. It’s a practice I intend to revive, along with a new, more appreciative frame of mind.