Expo 2020 Dubai: Food security and agricultural sustainability on show at UAE Pavilion

UAE based international and local artists display their creative pursuits that herald nation's future prospects.


Mazhar Farooqui

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Published: Tue 8 Feb 2022, 8:30 PM

Lessons learnt from the UAE's history continue to shape the country's approach to achieving sustainable food security, said Mariam Al Mheiri, the Minister for Climate Change and Environment, at the Expo 2020 Dubai on Monday.

She spoke alongside Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister for Culture and Youth, at an exhibition titled — “On Foraging: Food Knowledge and Environmental Imaginaries in the UAE’s Landscape” — that started at the UAE Pavilion.

The exhibition features the works of 11-UAE based international and local artists.

Thought-provoking photographs, sculptural works and ethnographic documentaries, including one by Nujoom Al Ghanem on the bee-keeping communities in the mountains of the UAE, are the highlights of the exhibition.

Al Kaabi said the UAE Pavilion truly reflects how the country's values of ambition, humanity, authenticity, openness, resilience, optimism, passed on by the country’s founding fathers continue to guide the nation's future prospects.

"In the UAE, we hold the value of investing in human connections highly and this is reflected in the arts and creativity expressed by people from all over the world in this unique exhibition,” she said, describing how their ancestors overcame great hardships in an "unimaginably tough landscape".

Al Kaabi said it was refreshing to see food security from an artist's point of view.

The exhibition has been commissioned by Warehouse421, a home-grown arts and design centre dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production across the region. It is accompanied by a publication exploring research work around food knowledge and environmental imaginaries in the UAE’s landscape.

Faisal Al Hassan, the Head of Warehouse421, said there couldn't have been a better time to curate the work of artists and creative souls who are exploring pressing world issues from a local perspective.

"From cultivating arid lands and seascapes through private, entrepreneurial, and national food security projects, we are very pleased to partner with the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to explore what it means for people to be constantly searching for food in the landscapes of the UAE. Climate change and the potential food and water shortages are some of the most important themes explored at Expo 2020 Dubai, and we want to tell the story of the UAE,” he said.

Tarek Al Ghoussein, a prolific artist and photographer, showcases large-scale photographs that describe the ways in which the natural environment travels with people, highlighting the relationship between cultural and environmental imaginaries.

Reem Falaknaz captures through a series of images the intergenerational relationships to the land revealing a story of kinship between people and the environment.

Ammar Al Attar documents seasonal fruit trees within domestic spaces in the UAE capturing the role of indigenous plants as a marker of seasonal change.

Paola Sakr’s sculptural work “Harvest Feast” illustrates the paradoxes of non-seasonal food consumption and highlights the types of seasonal produce available within the UAE landscape despite, if not because of, its arid climate.

Shaikha Al Mazrou’s disc-like series of sculptures respond to the monumental circular crop fields on one of the only areas in the UAE that uses pivot irrigation methods.

Mohammad Ahmed Ibrahim’s “Grill” seeks to engage audiences to further explore the nature, material, and narrative of his sculpture.

Abdullah Al Saadi’s charcoal drawings “Sweet Potatoes” displays each set within its own decorative tin box, which he produced on his many camping journeys in the past years to the Al Hajar Mountains, the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula.

Abir Mnasria and Zaina Khayyat use mixed media in the shape of thread on a wire mesh canvas to highlight seafood production with special emphasis on the complexities of oyster farms.

Eileen Vasquez uses sounds of people, environments and food-producing machinery, and seeks to evoke the soundscapes encountered in production spaces while exposing the complexity of collaborations between people who work within them.

The exhibition also features research works, interviews, personal reflections and narratives that influenced the event.


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