Expo 2020 Dubai: A glimpse into an art celebration of marine life in UAE

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan attends a workshop during the launch of Hammour House's teaser campaign. — Photo by Juidin Bernarrd
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan attends a workshop during the launch of Hammour House's teaser campaign. — Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Dubai - Hammour House will allow Expo visitors to be part of a global sustainability movement.


Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Wed 22 Sep 2021, 7:34 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Sep 2021, 8:58 AM

Hammour House — a one-of-a-kind community art project — on Wednesday offered a glimpse into its celebration of Emiratis' historic relationship with the sea at the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai.

The project — which has been in the making for the past two years despite Covid-19 challenges — is a stellar effort to bring together fisherfolk, scientists, artists, students and several UAE-based institutions at the showpiece event.

Hammour House will allow Expo visitors to be part of a global sustainability movement — by contributing to an 'ever-growing coral reef' sculpture, which will be made from recycled materials, creating an immersive experience of sustainability.

It will also showcase a gamut of visually striking and emotionally inspiring art installations at the mega event.

During the teaser on Wednesday, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE's Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, joined artists and the youth in a marine-themed art workshop.

“Hammour House embodies Expo 2020’s theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, which links creativity and engagement, and aims to bring the whole community together to build awareness, and enable action towards addressing our biggest challenges from the viewpoint of the arts”, he said.

Hammour House aims to display a vibrant tapestry depicting marine life, which has been created by thousands of pupils from the UAE using batik technique and sustainable dyes.

The Tapestry is presented as one of the three public installations that will be part of project. It was created by 118 schools, where 2,835 pupils took part and completed 608 artworks.

The show was curated by Ahmed Al Enezi, senior manager for arts and culture at Expo 2020 Dubai, and Camille Despalle, head of programming for thejamjar, was the creative director.

A movement inspired by an ancient tale

The One Thousand and One Nights story of Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman is the inspiration behind Hammour House. The eponymous tale is about fishermen developing a friendship with the merman and learning about marine life. Soon, they begin to appreciate that fish are not only a source of food, but are organisms inextricably linked to the food chain.

Hammour House builds on the moral lesson from the ancient story by encouraging the community that everyone has a role to play in protecting marine life — including the orange spotted grouper hammour, one of the most overfished species in the UAE.

Dr Hayat Samsuddin, senior vice-president for arts and culture at Expo 2020, Dubai, explains the significance of the project.

The Hammour House teaser campaign builds up the excitement about the eagerly anticipated Expo 2020 Dubai, with students of Centre for Musical Arts performing the 1986 chartbuster 'The Final Countdown'.

It was held at thejamjar, a 17-year-old arts organisation and community centre at Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz-1, Dubai, which produced the artwork in collaboration with mural artist Steve Chambers and thousands of pupils from the UAE.

Abjad Designs, a Dubai-based interdisciplinary design studio, conducted the additional research.

The house's architectural marvel

When Hammour House opens to the world at Expo 2020 in a few days, one of the things visitors shouldn't miss is the sculpture called Hammour Fish by Australian artist Sue Ryan.

She created the sculpture from fishing nets that are either lost or abandoned at sea. It was an architectural marvel that will be unveiled only at the event.

Ryan used the nets retrieved by Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers and conservation organisations from coastal areas in the Gulf of Carpentaria on Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.

She has collaborated with indigenous communities, conservation groups, fishermen and artists to create an engaging dialogue on poor fishing practices while reminding the beauty of marine life.


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