Arts and Culture


As the world continues to navigate troubled times, one self-taught artist in Dubai has been relentless in her efforts to spread hope and positivity across borders. She’s Rowaida Hakim, a coveted Lebanese-born and Dubai-based creative, who has launched a virtual exhibition that offers an impressive blend of art and technology.

“The main reason I’m creating such a large-scale virtual art exhibition is to show how nothing can stop us,” Rowaida tells Villa 88. “Spending the majority of my life in the UAE has greatly impacted me. The UAE is a country of positivity, peace and opportunities. It has played a major role in my success.”

Every painting I’ve made is endowed with a special meaning.

Being regarded as one of the largest virtual art shows held by a solo artist, the ‘Hope’ exhibition houses 70 paintings using virtual reality, so that viewers can have the same immersive experience as they would physically. “There are 70 artworks in this exhibition, as many people feel positive about the number 7,” explains Rowaida.

A detail of Happy Flowers by Rowaida Hakim

On view is a diverse body of work that Rowaida has created over the last 10 years, including the glorious Dubai Nights and Dancing Colors paintings, which are only available for viewing. Among other highlights are Happy Flowers (2020), featuring a golden canvas bedecked with flowers on one side.

Also to satiate your visual appetite are Love Situation, Baraka, which translates to ‘blessing’ in Arabic, and Pyramids of Gems, which features around 307 diamonds, applied with a new technique that involves the use of body paint instead of glue. Then, there’s Rowaida’s latest series, Universe, which depicts the galaxies and solar system with 24-carat gold leaf, diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

Dancing Colors by Rowaida Hakim

The main reason I’m creating such a large-scale virtual art exhibition is to show how nothing can stop us.

The pièce de résistance is the painting titled Hope (2020), with cherry blossom flowers on a blue canvas and golden mountains in the backdrop, which took six months to complete. “I love this work because it transmits a very warm feeling of happiness and reflects how the flowers open after winter,” Rowaida states. “Because after every hardship, there’s ease. Let’s hope that better times are to come.”

Hope by Rowaida Hakim

A nod to abstraction and impressionism, Rowaida’s works are filled with colorful impasto, swirling brushstrokes, and her signature use of metal and 18-carat gold leafs, with each being an exquisite meditation on themes such as cultural understanding, humanity, and hope amidst despair. In one of her paintings, she uses saffron and water to create sand dunes and reflect the beauty of nature. “Every painting I’ve made is endowed with a special meaning. And I want to say, ‘Thank you, nature’.”

Kalam min Zahab by Rowaida Hakim

But putting together such an expansive showcase virtually can be no easy feat. “It took months to get the plan ready,” Rowaida shares. “With God’s Blessings, it was a smooth process and I’m grateful to everyone who provided me with support. Thank you to my role model in life, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose words are the main inspiration behind my success. Special thanks to Galleria Mall Al Barsha and Four Seasons Hotel for their support with the photo shoot.”

Glamour by Rowaida Hakim

In addition to her work as an artist, Rowaida runs an eponymous luxury interior design company. In 2018, she staged a one-day viewing of her works at Sotheby’s Dubai and has since hosted multiple solo exhibitions in Dubai, and participated in Salon d’Art, an international fair at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris.

The ‘Hope’ virtual art exhibition will be live for one month and may be extended on demand. Select paintings are also available to be viewed with prior booking at Rowaida Interiors DMCC, Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

View Rowaida Hakim’s ‘Hope’ virtual art exhibition now: Rowaidahakim.com/exhibitions 

The Arts Club in London announced last year that its first international outpost would open its doors in Dubai. The world-renowned exclusive private members’ club has now revealed more about its much-anticipated Middle East launch, which is scheduled for October 2020.

The Arts Club Dubai promises to provide a creative space for entrepreneurs where they can come together to entertain, exchange ideas, dine in and participate in a rich cultural program of events while interacting with like-minded individuals, being a first-of-its-kind entity in the region.

The artistic hub will be located in Dubai’s DIFC, spanning across 65,000 square feet and spread across four storeys. The interior design of the Arts Club Dubai has been conceived by Milan based studio Foster + Partners, and will house a stunning permanent contemporary art collection, alongside changing exhibitions.

The art house will include London brasserie, as well as three brand new restaurants, including a late night members’ lounge. Also available are beautiful private dining rooms and a rooftop events space with sweeping views of Burj Khalifa.

The club’s core lies in its carefully tailored events to which members will be invited, much like the original club in London. The weekly events will include artist studio visits, panel discussions, live music and much more. The membership packages will be available in four tiers: Full, Second, Under 30s and International with annual prices, ranging from Dhs15,750 to Dhs7,875.

The Arts Club was founded in Mayfair, London in 1863. The club was inaugurated by Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope, among others, as a creative space for people connected by their love of the arts, and the current board members include actress Gwyneth Paltrow and designer Stella McCartney.

Image Credit: The Arts Club

Saudi artist Alaa Tarabzouni and Omani Rawan AlMahrouqi have been selected to participate in a world-renowned digital arts residency called ‘Making Marks: Connect ME Digital Residency’, taking place this August. Hosted by the Arab British Center, the initiative aims at uplifting and connecting Gulf countries and the United Kingdom through virtual artistic collaborations, as the world still navigates the COVID-19 crisis.

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? what’s this you ask? This is some of the wonderful, colourful, texture-rich work by @ellieniblockartist, one of the 4 artists selected to be part of our #ConnectME digital residency programme this August. Her work explores the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds and how they co-exist. Scroll to check out >>>>>> 1. It's Nice To Meet You (2020) Polyurethane foam, silicone, casting resin, iphone. 2. The Waiting Room: An Idyllic Cyberland (2020) Sculpture, Photogrammetry, Unity, Maya For the ConnectME residency, Ellie is currently working on a digital project in collaboration with Saudi artist @atarabzo, to be showcased later this month! Watch this space ?? Making Marks ConnectME is run in partnership with the British Council #MakingMarksConnectMe #MakingMarks #DigitalResidency

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Alaa is set to join hands with Irish artist Ellie Niblock this month, while Rawan is paired with Alexis Maxwell from Merseyside. Together, the artists will partake in workshops and meet fellow creatives from around the globe over a period of four weeks. They’ll also attend critique sessions and benefit from mentors, with access to visiting artists to create their digital artworks.

“The residency comes at a time when it isn’t purely reactive to the physical limitations brought about by the pandemic. Rather, the format for the residency is extremely thoughtful and fits so well with the conscious use of technology to transcend borders and allow for cultural exchange,” Alaa said in a statement to the Gulf News. 

Alaa Tarabzouni and Rawan AlMahrouqi (from left to right)

Alaa’s work centers around urbanism and her most recent work, Bait Al Wurud, was showcased at Durational Portrait at Athr Gallery in Jeddah and The Quest for Our Next Concern in Riyadh. Rawan is a multidisciplinary contemporary artist  whose work is a commentary on the female experience in the Arabian region and the thin line between tradition and religion.

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Abandoned painting

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The artists have been connecting through digital tools and by sending cultural objects to each other, as part of this superb diversity initiative. The resulting artworks could be anything, from an augmented reality experience to a short film to a zine or a live performance, so stay tuned.

Images credit: @atarabzo and Arab British Centre

With Saudi Arabia’s art scene gaining ground, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture has announced that all government entities are now required to display works created by local artists in their offices by royal decree.

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• فريدا ‫/‬ خلطة اسبريسو •

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The move, which aims at preserving the rich cultural heritage of the country, follows a governmental proposal to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comprising a list of acquired artworks, and traditional goods and crafts that commemorate the Kingdom, reported Arab News.

The Cabinet had previously instructed the ministry to prepare this national record for artistic works, which will then serve as a guide and database for creatives in the country. A commendable and timely decision, it’s sure to create more avenues for local artists to position themselves on the global map.

Bibliophiles in the UAE, we come bearing great news. It has been announced that the Sharjah International Book Fair will take place from 4-14 November at the Sharjah Expo Centre, with all precautionary measures in place. And the event is already fully sold-out for exhibitors, which means you’re in for a diverse treat.

The list of guest authors who will be attending the book fair will be announced later this year. The event saw a massive two million attendees last year. “It’s heartening to receive such strong industry support even in these challenging times, which drives us to host an exceptional edition this year to continue benefiting both the reader as well as local, regional and global publishing markets,” Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of Sharjah Book Authority, said in a statement to The National.

Launched in 1982, the Sharjah International Book Fair is an 11-day event that features daily writing workshops, poetry readings and book signings. The Sharjah Book Authority remains dedicated throughout the years to promote love for literary arts, attracting authors and readers from around the globe. In fact, it’s known to be the world’s fourth largest book fair.

“Those of us who enjoy reading in the Emirate of Sharjah are very keen to create a reading community and promote the benefits of reading among children. We believe that books must be available to all and from this concept we turn book fairs into an oasis of knowledge and enlightenment,” HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, said in a statement.

Image Courtesy of @thebookconfessions

As museums and art galleries across the United Arab Emirates have been exploring new and improved ways of transcending physical boundaries and opening up to a wider audience, Qasr Al Hosn Cultural Foundation has created an engaging virtual platform that will offer visitors from around the world a view of Abu Dhabi’s cultural birthplace.

The Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi has launched an online program in collaboration with the Department of Education and Knowledge to take 160 students on their first virtual tour of the site over a Zoom meeting.

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. يقدم الحصن جولات إرشادية مباشرة عبر الإنترنت لموقع الحصن للمدارس والمجموعات والأفراد. شاركنا في أولى هذه الجولات 160 طالبا تعرفوا من خلالها على قصر الحصن والمجمع الثقافي برفقة مرشد ثقافي. استكشف الحصن مع هذه التجربة الفريدة من منزلك. يجب الحجز المسبق لهذه الجولات الافتراضية من خلال موقعنا أو عن طريق الاتصال بالرقم 6400 697 02 #الإمارات #ثقافة #فن #تاريخ #أبوظبي #في_أبوظبي Al Hosn offers live online guided tours to schools, groups and individuals. Our first group of 160 students enjoyed exploring Qasr Al Hosn and Cultural Foundation with a live guide, who took them on a tour and answered their questions. Explore Al Hosn with this unique experience from the comfort of your home. Virtual tours are free of charge, with prior booking required though our website or by calling 02 697 6400 #UAE #AbuDhabi #Heritage #Legacy #InAbuDhabi

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The guided tour program includes a 360-degree virtual reality simulation, where visitors can interact with professional tour guides as they are led through the exhibition. The initiative is currently offering tours of the Red Palace, an art exhibition featuring works by Saudi artist Sultan Bin Fahad. You can also view the Common Ground, a group exhibition that reflects on cultural values shared between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“With our recorded and virtual tours, students and lifelong learners from across the Emirate are able to access the unparalleled stories and treasures found in Qasr Al Hosn, our most significant landmark,” Salama Al Shamsi, Director of Qasr Al Hosn, said in a statement, according to DTC Abu Dhabi. The pre-recorded tours are available in Arabic, English, French, Urdu and Malayalam.

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. #اﻟﺜﻘﺎﻓﺔ_ﻟﻠﺠﻤﻴﻊ_اﻛﺘﺸﻒ | ﻛﺎن ﻗﺼﺮ اﻟﺤﺼﻦ ﻣﻘﺮاً ﻟﻠﺤﻜﻢ وﻣﻨﺰﻻً ﻟﻸﺳﺮة اﻟﺤﺎﻛﻤﺔ وأرﺷﻴﻔﺎً وﻃﻨﻴﺎً. وﻫﻮ ﻳﻘﻒ اﻟﻴﻮم ﺷﺎﻫﺪاً ﺣﻴﺎ ﻋﻠﻰ ﻣﺤﻄﺎت ﻣﻦ ﺗﺎرﻳﺦ أﺑﻮﻇﺒﻲ. ﻗﻮﻣﻮا ﺑﺠﻮﻟﺔ اﻓﺘﺮاﺿﻴﺔ ﻛﺎﻣﻠﺔ ﻟﻬﺬا اﻟﺮﻣﺰ اﻟﺘﺎرﻳﺨﻲ ﻋﺒﺮ ﻣﻮﻗﻊ ﺛﻘﺎﻓﺔ أﺑﻮﻇﺒﻲ اﻹﻟﻜﺘﺮوﻧﻲ ﻣﻦ ﺧﻼل اﻟﺮاﺑﻂ ﻓﻲ اﻟﺒﺎﻳﻮ. #الثقافة_للجميع #ثقافة_أبوظبي #في_أبوظبي #الثقافة_للجميع_اكتشف #CulturAllExplore | Qasr Al Hosn has been home to the ruling family, the seat of government and a national archive; it now stands as the nation's living memorial and the narrator of Abu Dhabi's history. Take the full 360 virtual tour of this historical monument available now on Abu Dhabi Culture website. Link in bio. #CulturAll #AbuDhabiCulture #InAbuDhabi #CulturAllExplore

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In addition to Qasr Al Hosn, the UAE’s most iconic cultural landmark, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, has also launched virtual tours for people from around the world to engage with local culture from the comfort of their homes.

Cover image credit: @ahmedalmal

The sixth annual edition of Dubai Design Week  is scheduled to take place from 9-14 November and will consist of both physical and digital arms to delight audiences. The UAE’s one-stop destination for all-things design and architecture, DXBDW is among the most-awaited events on the international creative calendar.

This year’s event will shine a bigger spotlight on local talent, lending more focus on sustainable and purposeful designs. The festival has adopted a ‘phygital’ approach and will include both in-person activities at Dubai Design District and other locations around the city.

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The 2020 Programme of the upcoming edition of Dubai Design Week, taking place 9-14 November, will consist of both digital as well as physical components that incorporate distancing measures, at the festival’s main hub in Dubai Design District (d3) and in locations across the city, with a focus on design for positive impact and an emphasis on supporting the creative community. Themes related to locality, collective work, future imagining and sharing of public space under physical and mobility restrictions are announced across several components of the festival. To learn more on how to participate, reach out and apply, visit the link in bio or www.dubaidesignweek.ae by 10 July. #DXBDW2020

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The six-day event “will be addressing the role and responsibilities of designers, creatives and creative industry stakeholders in redefining the way we live in the near and long-term future,” creative director Ghassan Salameh said in a statement. “I was very interested in trying to focus more on design that is responsible and purposeful… Our job as creatives is to provide solutions for the different problems the world is going through. We have to be relevant. We cannot sit on the side and keep doing things like we always do.”

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Submit your proposals today to take part in the 2020 programme of the upcoming edition of Dubai Design Week, taking place 9-14 November, consisting of both digital as well as physical components incorporating distancing measures, at the festival’s main hub in Dubai Design District (d3) and in locations across the city, with a focus on design for positive impact and an emphasis on supporting the creative community. We invite you to share your concepts and ideas, exploring themes related to locality, collective work, future-imagining and sharing of public space under physical and mobility restrictions, announced across several components of the festival. Register your interest today and finalise your proposals by 31 July. Visit link in bio to reach out and apply. لا تفتكم فرصة تقديم مقترحاتكم اليوم للمشاركة ببرنامج 2020 للنسخة القادمة من أسبوع دبي للتصميم، والمقام من 9 وحتى 14 نوفمبر من العام الحالي، حيث تتضمن فعاليات الأسبوع عناصر افتراضية وأخرى واقعية تطبق توصيات التباعد الاجتماعي في المركز الرئيسي للحدث بحي دبي للتصميم وفي مختلف أنحاء مدينة دبي، وتركز نسخة هذا العام على التصميم الهادف لإحداث التأثيرات الإيجابية ودعم للمجتمعات الابداعية. ندعوكم للمشاركة بمشاريعكم وأفكاركم، والتي تبحث في مفاهيم الإنتماء المحلي، والعمل الجماعي، والرؤية المستقبلية، والتشارك في المساحات العامة، في ظل قيود الحركة والتواصل، وبحسب المواضيع المحددة والموضحة في موقع الفعالية. سجلوا اهتمامكم اليوم وقدموا مشاريعكم النهائية قبل 31 يوليو. للتقديم ولمعرفة المزيد، يرجى زيارة الرابط في الصفحة الرئيسية. #DXBDW2020

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A major change in the 2020 programming is that participants will be selected mostly via open call. The Abwab pavilion, an essential part of the festival featuring commissioned architectural models, will now be drawn from submissions by creatives in the MENA region.

The architectural structures are expected to be built to withstand extreme weather conditions while also paying heed to social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19. Apart from this, the shelters will be semi-permanent, so that they can be functional beyond the event. Partnering with Sharjah-based environmental company Bee’ah, Abwab is also providing participants with recycled and up-cycled materials, including rubber, aluminum cans, cardboard and plastic bottles for participants to bring their designs to life.

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Materials are a key component of a design process, in the case of installations, experimentation and exploration of readily available tools and material at hand results in unique experiences where the installation is used as a medium to serve a purpose. Innovative, progressive methods from across various disciplines and borders, can be applied. UAE-based designers or collaborating creatives looking to stage an outdoor installations that will placed throughout Dubai Design District (d3), the main hub of Dubai Design Week, are encouraged to put forward functional, modular and purposeful proposals of semi-permanent, sustainable public space interventions with the intention of producing a body of work offering concrete proposals to be later replicated contextually in real scenarios. Learn more by visiting the link in bio, and submit your proposals to take part. #DXBDW2020

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With less than four months to go, the event is gearing up to provide a safe and practical environment for the design community to showcase their talent and lend a helping hand in our collective process of healing from the uncertainties we face.

Cover image credits @dubaidesignweek

The Ras Al Khaimah Department of Antiquities and Museums has restored a 100-year-old watchtower after parts of its roof collapsed and fell. The watchtower is located in Al Jazirah Al Hamra, an ancient maritime village in the Emirate, which is renowned for fishing, pearl diving and boat building. The restoration process has taken about three months to complete.

The Department of Antiquities and Museums is planning to open this rich cultural monument to the public. The restoration of Al Hamra Tower is part of a greater plan, which includes the conservation of 1,600 historic structures.

The tower was originally used to serve as the town’s defense system, and was constructed using traditional materials such as coral and beach stone, mangrove beams, and palm fronds. It was originally built to guard Al Jazirah Al Hamra’s water wells along with protecting the settlement.

“No chemicals or modern materials were used in the repairs to reflect the original process and maintain the tower’s historical integrity,” Ahmed Hilal, Director of Archaeology at the Department, said in a statement. “We have also tried to avoid material containing salt, which is a major problem in many structures because it can cause corrosion,” he added. The government organization will release a digital database, showcasing Ras Al Khaimah’s traditional buildings once the plan has been fully executed.

Image credit: Ras Al Khaimah Government Media Office & Wow-rak.com

To keep you busy and entertained in the age of social distancing, Arada launched Sharjah’s first drive-in cinema in Madar at Aljada, an urban lifestyle destination just earlier this month. Today, the theater’s first Arabic language film will premiere to an audience of film enthusiasts. Egyptian comedy Zaki Chan will be screened today at 8:00pm and the 150-car-capacity cinema will be free to enter, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The soundtrack of the movie will be broadcasted directly into the car via the car stereo, on 87.7 FM.

This novel entertainment concept is being launched in collaboration with Dubai-based company Urban Entertainment. “It’s [also] our way of thanking the Sharjah community for its strength and resilience during these exceptionally challenging times. We look forward to welcoming guests back to Aljada and providing them with a safe form of entertainment,” HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Arada, said in a statement.

You’ll be able to enjoy a wide range of movies everyday at the venue in both Arabic and English. Films will be screened every day at 8pm, in keeping with all safety measures. To enhance the in-car movie experience, moviegoers will also be able to order snacks from 17 food outlets from the venue, ranging from popcorn to burgers, sushi to vegan snacks, which will be delivered directly to your car.

Aljada’s drive-in cinema goes in hand with Sharjah’s long-term association with the movie industry, which began some 77 years ago with the opening of the UAE’s first ‘cinema’ at the old Mahatta airbase at the center of the city. This exciting drive-in cinema in the UAE’s cultural hub is topping our to-do list. Is it on yours?

Image Courtesy of @urbanentertainment

After closing their doors to the public in March this year, museums in Abu Dhabi are set to reopen and welcome visitors back with safety measures and restrictions put in place. Various cultural facilities in the capital  will be allowed to operate at a 40 percent capacity and will be required to follow social distancing rules and crowd-control measures. Thermal cameras have also been installed at entrances.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Hosn and the Cultural Foundation from 24 June. “Announcing the reopening of our cultural sites is a significant step in helping residents and visitors to Abu Dhabi to accelerate a return to ‘normal’ life in the emirate,” Saood Al Hosani, acting undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, told The National.

For a dose of adrenaline, you can also visit the Yas Marina Circuit, which has announced that it’s reopening on 19 June. With the weekend approaching, it’s time to plan your visits.

Cover image courtesy: Unsplash.com