Dubai: The stage of cultural diversity

Artists across ethnicities, cultures, and colours are the hallmark of the artscape of the region; they speak of how welcomed they feel here


Purva Grover

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Published: Sun 24 Jul 2022, 12:16 AM

The UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities, which is just one of the many reasons each of us experiences diversity in the land, from the meals we consume to the languages we speak. Yes, diverse ethnicities, cultures, and colours are the hallmark of the UAE’s artscape. From global art events that see participation from artists from all over the world to continuous efforts being made to cultivate the local talent in the country, Dubai in specific, and UAE at large, is indeed the stage of culture diversity.

A land of positive stories

Born and raised in Dubai Hossein Kiani, The Fab Hub, the Iranian artist, said, “For the past few years, the UAE has become the hub for art and culture, so for me as an artist it has always been important to be part of this city’s innovative art scene.” Though he has master’s in marketing from the American University of Dubai, Hossein reclaimed his artistic passions with the ambition to leave a legacy in the cultural fabric of the region. Mher Chilingirian and Zepur Giragossian, Lebanese artists, Chillout Accessories, who moved to Dubai in 2021, said, “We think the UAE art scene is very important because the country connects us to other parts of the world.” In love with designing jewellery from a young age, the duo work with a vision to provide women with confidence. They added, “People come to the UAE to see something different, and they always take back positive stories with them.”

A welcoming audience

As a visitor or expat pursuing arts here, do the artists sense a difference in the audience from back home? “If you were to ask me this question ten years ago, I’d have thought that the audience in the UAE is very different from the US and my home country, Chile. In a way, it is. And in a way it is not. All places have unique points of view. However, the geographical and cultural gaps separating people around the planet have shrunk and those boundaries are increasingly disappearing thanks to technology and a global economy. Art too is now part of the global economy and global culture. Dubai is home to Art Dubai, and art lovers travel from around the world to visit the fair,” said Alonsa Guevara, a Chilean-American (New York-based) artist, currently in Dubai as part of her one-year residency at Tashkeel, a contemporary art centre and facility in Dubai.

“I have been completely amazed by the welcoming feeling that I have felt from the UAE audience. I have met many art lovers, who appreciate my work, and I was even surprised to find out that many of have been following my journey for a while including at Expo 2020, overseas and recently at Zeman Awwal, Mall of the Emirates,” said Lydia Moawad, a Lebanese artist, Lydia Moawad Gallery. Hossein who too recently displayed his work at Zeman Awwal added, “It was always important for me to showcase my work in one of the most prestigious malls in the UAE as a way of attracting a Middle Eastern audience, so when the opportunity came about to showcase my work, I jumped at the opportunity and the feedback I have received throughout my experience in the UAE has been amazing.” In celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, Mall of the Emirates launched Zeman Awwal, a unique cultural hub honouring the rich heritage and traditions of the UAE, with an impressive 1,100 sqm of space and comprising nine different inspirational areas.

Focus is on art

Lydia, who has been exhibiting in Dubai since 2013, added, “It is a great honour to witness a country that gives such importance to art. I feel lucky enough to have my paintings showcased in the UAE and be part of many private collections of art collectors.” Honoured with the Award of Excellence 2018 in Hong Kong, Lydia is considered as one of the contemporary Lebanese renowned artist painters. Her paintings were auctioned at the Modern Art Show in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 2014, alongside the works of Picasso, Van Gogh and Fateh El Mudaress. “People in this region love art and appreciate handcrafted items,” added Hossein. Mher and Zepur added, “We’re forever grateful to be able to showcase our work in the UAE. The people really understand what it means to be an artist and they appreciate the work.”

Alonsa’s paintings are a window to an imaginary universe where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. She elaborated, “New experiences are always good for art. When I was a child, we moved from an arid and mountainous city in Chile to a tropical rainforest in Ecuador. Later, as a young adult, I moved to NYC. Now, I am eager to capture and showcase the natural environment here in the Emirates. Of course, there is less green in the UAE, but there is still nature everywhere. For me, the connection between nature, humans, and our spirituality is indispensable, and I aim to share that beautiful feeling with my work.”

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