How Sharjah dazzles the world with stories told through lights

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Sharjah - With daily shows across 19 locations, it does take a lot to put these shows up.

On an ordinary day, or night, the Noor Mosque in Sharjah, a monumental structure inspired by Istanbul's Ottoman-era Blue Mosque, is a sight to behold.
However, on February 5 at 7pm, at the onset of the Sharjah Light Festival, thousands gathered outside the mosque and near Khalid Lagoon to witness the kaleidoscope of colours splash onto their beloved Noor Mosque.
Celebrating its 10th year, the theme of the Sharjah Light Festival is 'the Sharjah Light Festival itself', said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA).
"Such is the light festival's legacy. This year, we are in 19 different sites, featuring creations of talented international and local artists - including students from the Sharjah University and American University of Sharjah," said Al Midfa.
What goes behind-the-scenes?
"It is something everyone must witness once in their lifetime. Every year, it gets more spectacular," said Sharjah resident Raza Mustafa. "I bring my children to the festival every year. We often wonder how the organisers manage to create something this spectacular every year," she added.
With daily shows across 19 locations, it does take a lot to put these shows up. Colombine Beyer, the associate director of Nomada, Les Arts Nomades Cie, the artistic company behind the dazzling light show, gave Khaleej Times an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview on what goes into making the Sharjah Light Festival possible.
Beyer said: "Following the vision of Al Midfa, the Sharjah Light Festival is the occasion of a broad exploration in the fields of light creation. In 10 years, the spectrum of techniques used for the Sharjah Light Festival diversified largely. From primitive flame, film projection followed high-end digital mapping shows, live show performances, interactivity and augmented reality, fireworks, and the list goes on."
He added: "However, the most important aspect of the festival, while making the best use of high-end technologies, is to develop over the years a strong artistic identity." According to Beyer, the company's approach is based on the intimate conviction that the artistic language is the most powerful one, speaking all languages, connecting people together.
The process behind the light festival
Beyer added: "Each year, the SCTDA chooses a theme giving an identity and a singularity to the festival. The audience appreciates the shows to echo and answer from one to each other: It's the very definition of a festival that is not a compilation of isolated shows and solo artists, but an orchestra in which all the instruments are tuned together.
"We are trying to create a conversation between all elements of the festival. In this case, each and every location and installation speaks to one another. Sometimes in contradiction, sometimes in opposition, sometimes in resonance or echo.
"What matters in terms of the artistic direction, is to create a palette of different tones. We don't want to use the same aestheticism everywhere. We play with all sorts of artistic inspirations and movements, yet create a whole that works together to tell a story," added Beyer.
'Odyssey in the City'
Creating a festival as an "Odyssey in the city" means to explore Sharjah, night and day, top to bottom - its streets, public spaces, nightspots and cultural institutions, jewels of Sharjah's cultural heritage and urban landscapes, said Beyer.
Each location selected by the SCTDA has its own features, its own history, its own spatial logic, and then its own particular technical approach and artistic development.
Young artists at the festival
In September 2019, Nomada called for the participation of students to take part in the creative process of the Sharjah Light Festival. "We trained 20 students of American University of Sharjah and University of Sharjah in creating their own video mapping show, from the storyboarding to the motion design video editing," explained Beyer.
Federico Gonzalez and Javier Pinto, two of the participating students who presented their works at the Sharjah Police Academy, explained: "We wanted to create an artwork as a tribute to nature and animal kingdom, a bright and positive interpretation of the planet. So, we came to the idea of an audio-visual projection that revolves around elements that are found in the natural world."
Pinto said: "The inspiration for this show comes from the observation of the astonishing forces behind the growing structures that inhabit our planet.
"One of the main tools we used to develop the images was real-time and generative software."
Chipping in, Gonzales explained: "In this way, the visuals are created with code, and in a certain way 'grow' and evolve with variables, giving a natural behaviour to the scene. It was really interesting to represent the beauty of nature with organic graphism."
They said: "The highest pressure comes when the show is revealed to the public. How they will respond? How the Show will live in their memory? These questions lead us during the whole creative process until the show is projected in real onto the building."

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