Look: Superman in Satwa? Dubai artist celebrates unsung local heroes with incredible digital art

Yohan Wadia is humanising much-loved DC and Marvel characters as everyday people

By Nasreen Abdulla, Karen Ann Monsy

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Photos: @yohanwadia/Instagram
Photos: @yohanwadia/Instagram

Published: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 8:45 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 2:17 PM

Are Earth's mightiest heroes in town? It would certainly seem so. But what is Iron Man doing in a tailoring shop?

Why is the Hulk, in all his green glory and rippling muscles stretched taut, carrying a large heavy sack half his own size down an alley?

These are Yohan Wadia's representations of the unsung heroes of Satwa — and they are sure to create a storm. “Satwa is like a cultural and commercial hub of Dubai,” said Wadia, speaking to Khaleej Times.

“There are so many people who are away from their families and toiling every day and night. It is such a blending pot of cultures. In every nook and cranny, there are people who do physical work as well as craftsmen and graffiti artists. It is like an ecosystem within itself. So I came up with the idea of superimposing the culture of Satwa with that of the western world of superheroes. And to me it is a perfect match.”

Have a look at some of his other work and see if you can spot your favourite superhero — with a distinctly Dubai flavour.

Perhaps, the brilliance of Wadia's work lies in his humanising of these much-loved DC and Marvel characters as everyday people. Dubai's own friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is spotted carrying bags of goods down a familiar street, while Wolverine — a claw talisman around his neck — nurses a cup of chai (karak, perhaps?).

However, Wadia, who works as an illustrator and a creative director with a media agency, says that he has received some flak for his work not being “art” per se. “I have been upfront about it that all these images are AI generated,” he said. “Many people have been writing to me saying it isn’t true art. However, technology has evolved so much that right now our own creativity is the only thing that is holding us back. Why not take advantage of what tools we have at our disposal to create what we can imagine?”

Wadia then detailed how he went about making this art. “First, I submitted a prompt into this AI website called Midjourney,” he said. “Then I photoshopped, cleaned and played around with the elements to create a unique image. It is my imagination of how the people milling around in Satwa actually are. They are all superheroes who contribute to the trade and economy of this country from behind the scenes.”

Coming to Dubai seven years ago, the Indian expat admitted that he wanted to return back home initially. “I am from Mumbai, and I missed the city,” he said. “However, our relatives kept telling us that it would change. I really didn’t think it would. But now, my wife and I have really settled here and I know that Dubai is home to me. I don’t really want to leave the city.”

Wadia says his goal is to celebrate the "unsung heroes who work behind the limelight and the glitz and glamour of Dubai". And we love to see it!

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