A Belarusian artist is sketching the royal history of the UAE
Sheikha Al Jalila shares a light moment with her father HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and her brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai
Yulia Kravets from Belarus has a hobby - sketching UAE's royal family. And she's never been to the UAE
Any Instagrammer would agree that it is possible to come across at least 10 new profiles in five minutes of browsing. Sure, you don't end up talking to every person you check out. Leave alone engage in a Skype conversation. But her profile was different.
I landed on her Instagram page following the hashtag trail she had left behind: the names of the UAE's royals. I spent time browsing her works. Again, a new thing as a quick surf is usually enough.
At first glimpse, Yulia Kravets' Instagram profile gives you a peek into the mesmerising lives of the royal family, with some pictures dating back four decades. You can recognise the faces, beautifully captured in her sketches. Be it Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai sharing a light moment with his son, Sheikh Hamdan, or the making of Abu Dhabi's masterplan decades ago. There is a candid picture of Sheikh Mohammed engaged in an intense conversation with UAE's founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Originally from Belarus, Yulia Kravets first started sketching the royal family in 2014. "I took to Islam two years ago and started having conversations with people from the Emirates. In the process, I grew curious about the founders who created this glorious country from the desert." It was this curiosity that led her to draw the first portraits of the royal family.
One of the earliest sketches, she recollects, was that of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. She had browsed pictures and was drawn to the grand architecture of the mosque. Posting these sketches on her blog, she started receiving old pictures from unknown people with requests to draw the royal family. And the result is the slew of sketches that has made her profile popular over the years.
Which is her favourite among the portraits she's sketched? "I prefer old astute faces with wrinkles as they portray wisdom. For sure, I like to draw the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan."
During the course of our conversation, she shares being in awe of the love and respect the residents of UAE have for the rulers and that led her to reflect the history and soul of the country.
Each sketch takes her two days to a week to complete. Explaining the process, Yulia says, "First I create sketches, sometimes a few in one night, and then in a couple of weeks, I turn them into real drawings - occasionally sitting at a stretch." As an artist, she prefers drawing pictures that express emotions rather than static portraits.
Life beyond artApart from sketching, Yulia teaches foreign languages: German and English. She wants to now learn Arabic. "I have already read the Koran in English and Russian. Thanks to the people from the emirates, I received a beautiful Koran in Arabic."
Yulia's childhood dream was to become a pilot.
She says that she did not get the opportunity to become one which is why, she adds, she keeps drawing planes.
Not many people around her can fathom her fascination for the emirates. It's a country she has never been to nor has any direct links with. Many people, including her colleagues are curious about her interest in the UAE. And she's used to explaining to them her fascination for Islam.
The revival projectOver time, her Instagram profile has gained popularity and today there are 89.4k followers observing her artwork. Given her interest in the history of UAE, Yulia now wants to create a small project to revive the old pictures from the UAE.
Explaining further, she says, "I want to give new life to old photos from the history of the UAE through my sketches. I am on the lookout for old pictures. Yes, it is a difficult task to work with old photos as they more often than not, don't have the best resolution. Image quality and fuzzy lines tend to be an issue. But for me, it's much more interesting than sketching modern photos that look great without my hand."
She wants the project to be a window for the people of the UAE to remember their rich history. "Perhaps many might not have seen these photos before and thanks to the project they could relive the history through my Instagram page and blogs."
Anita likes, among other things, the Garamond font, and figuring out songs stuck in her head
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai speaking with Ahmed-Adi Al Bitar in 1969
The man behind Abu Dhabi’s master plan November 11, 2013 - Dr Abdulrahman Makhlouf
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia with his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Yulia Kravets' profile gives you a peek into the mesmerising lives of the royal family,