Workshops at Dubai Foundation for Women and Children shelter ease emotional pain and help to express creativity
UAE's domestic abuse victims to see art work go on display at Dubai exhibition
Paintings of hope created by women with emotional and physical scars from abusive relationships will be on display for the first time at an exhibition to promote their work and the shelter that houses them.
About 30 paintings by women who are survivors of domestic violence, have suffered abuse or were victims of human trafficking will be shown at the Dubai International Art Centre from Wednesday.
Artists and volunteers have been working with residents of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children for more than a year and organised workshops to help the women express themselves.
“At first, some of the women were a bit apprehensive as many of them had never painted before but they were curious and willing to learn. This is why we started off by painting on smaller canvases. We then moved on to larger canvases and the ladies worked on these as a group project. The more they experimented, the more their confidence grew,” said Fiona Petrocelli, a volunteer board member at the art centre who led the project.
“Collectively, I feel these paintings reflect a spirit of fortitude that I can’t even imagine or comprehend but at the same time each one of them seem to covey a feeling of calmness and serenity. I will never know or understand the true meaning behind each brush stroke. But ultimately, for me, having shared in the experience of their creation, each painting is a representation of moving on.”
The paintings use rich colours depicting landscapes from a lone sailboat setting off on a dark sea to a black-and-yellow butterfly perched on a flower and the spire of a mosque framed by bright pink flowers.
Volunteers from the centre first began by arranging sewing classes for the women last year and then moved on to painting and mosaic workshops. During classes, they explained that art required time, patience and that each woman would find her own individual style.
Emirati artist Fatma Lootah believes art has the power to heal.
“Art is a soul thereby it guides the person to concentrate on their inner beauty, when that is discovered, everything else seems to disappear,” said the artist who will the show’s guest of honour.
Officials too said the interactions were therapeutic for the women in the shelter.
“When the women were painting, they were in another happy world. I was very impressed to see them relaxed, said Asma Al Suwaidi, a senior activities coordinator at DFWAC.
“The art workshops really helped the women to release stress, relax, express themselves, forget about their personal problems and focus on their creativity.”
Funds from the show will go toward supporting the women and children who reside at the non-profit shelter that was established in 2007 to offer protection and support services.
“This art exhibition is a great way to boost the confidence of the women behind the paintings; the funds will help support women empowerment programs and support women in need,” said Ghaya Al Habtoor, DFWAC’s marketing executive.
“This is also a great exposure for the foundation, its services and facilities. We would like the community to know more about the foundation and its services in helping abused women and children in order to have a society free of violence.”
The foundation provides shelter to women of all nationalities who were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking.
The helpline received 3,461 calls, of which 935 involved requests for help and advice in 2015 alone.
The organisation handled 108 cases of violence against women, 11 child abuse cases and one human trafficking case in the third quarter of last year, marking a slight increase compared to the 115 cases handled in the same period in 2015.
A specialised team deals with women and children who call its 800 111 helpline, email email@example.com or text messages to 5111.
The shelter also receives cases that are referred by the courts and police.
Seasons of Change art exhibition by DFWAC will show from September 6 to 16 at Gallery 76 at the Dubai International Art Centre