How art created 'hope' in the UAE

2022 was the year when hope resurfaced on canvases and stages, in playlists and lounges. We look back at the moments with relief and happiness and look forward to a brighter 2023


Purva Grover

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Alphabetic Memory by Anashar Basbous
Alphabetic Memory by Anashar Basbous

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022, 11:34 PM

If it were not for the arts, we would have found it impossible to deal with the pandemic. Think of all the movies you watched on OTT platforms, all the shows you witnessed from the balconies (vertical concerts!), the online galleries you visited, the virtual album launches you attended, and more. The UAE kept its promise to keep us safe, whilst opening up various platforms and creating new opportunities to showcase creative arts. 2022 was the year when hope resurfaced on canvases and stages, in playlists and lounges, et al. We look back at just a handful of arty moments with relief and happiness and look forward to a brighter 2023.

Concerts, aplenty

2022 indeed was the year of the concerts, with all roads leading to venues like the Coca Cola Arena, Dubai World Trade Centre, The Agenda and more. From Coke Studio Live to Abida Parveen, One Republic to Peter Bence, Rob Lake and more, our calendars stayed full and buzzing.

Children’s day out

It was a good year to be a child, or to awaken the child within! From The Lion King to Disney on Ice, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena made sure we kept returning. What’s next, well, Shrek The Musical is coming to the Dubai Opera in February.

Hello, dinner shows

Yes, you may have thought that shows were limited only to auditoriums and theatrical spaces, but Dubai made it possible for these to take place at various restaurants and lounges, whilst a few old venues stood out like Billionaire Dubai, Taj Hotel and PLAY Restaurant & Lounge, The H Dubai, etc. a few not-so-old ones like the Dream, Address Beach Resort, JBR, Dubai put up a good show as well. A blend of great music and food, alongside international acts and showstopping acrobatics, each of the shows added a fresh charm to the act of dining out.

Return of the art events sans masks

Whilst there was no stopping the events from taking place even during the pandemic, and the authorities made sure everyone stayed safe as they took part in the events, it was nice to see a few major and most-looked-for events re-emerge in full glory, this time sans masks. World Art Dubai 2022 was a tad disappointing, with lesser visitors, perhaps as most found their way to Art Dubai, which lived up to its expectation of grandeur and luxe and was one of the most extensive editions of the fair to date. The theme of the 10th edition of the Sikka Art and Design Festival was inspired by the Sidr tree, characterised by firmness and strength and closely related to the historical heritage of the UAE’s civilisation.

The magic of Opera

Soprano Maria Callas once said, “An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” The Dubai Opera ensured every show that it hosted in 2022 stayed with its audience for a long time. Watching Romeo and Juliet and falling in love, once again, with Georgian ballet and Sergi Prokofiev’s work was magical; dancing and applauding to Jake Quickenden and Darren Day-starrer Footloose was retro-fun.

Sustainability and NFTs

The 14th edition of DIFC’s Art Nights under the theme of Sustainability: Art for a Better World featured works by local and international artists. Web3 is like the wild west right now where the rules of the new NFT art market are just being formed. The existence of NFTs and their use in the art world has caused an explosion in the growth of the digital art industry. Not to mention, now we’re gradually finding an arty footing in the Metaverse too.

Regionally, speaking

Cinema Akil stood out for hosting the first Arab Cinema Week that lasted 10 days, with nine feature films, and six shorts — with stories representing 11 Arab countries. Spoken word poetry and stand-up acts by local performers both saw a rise in popularity and attendance.

‘Live’ it up

Dance floors gave way to dinner tables and loud music to live acts. One could every night, weekdays included, hop on from one venue to another offering live music acts and a chance to romance genres like country, jazz, punk, blues, and more. Jazz truly emerged as a favourite, with a few venues like Jass Lounge, DIFC focusing purely on that.

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