Renowned Emirati artist draws UAE life on popcorn tub for National Day

Behind the design is Abdulla Lutfi, an autistic savant who beat the odds to show the world his exceptional talent

By Mariam Qureshi

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KT file photo
KT file photo

Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 3:08 PM

Last updated: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 3:09 PM

If you're watching a movie this long weekend, don't miss this exclusive popcorn tub designed by prominent Emirati artist of determination Abdulla Lutfi.

Lutfi has joined forces with Vox Cinemas to create the limited-edition tub to commemorate the 52nd UAE National Day.

The monochromatic masterpiece authentically captures a myriad of activities, featuring skylines, camels, palm trees, and whimsically adorned characters in traditional Emirati costumes.

Abdulla skillfully conveys the distinctive essence of the Emirati way of life.

Launched on November 25, this design is now available across all Vox Cinemas in the UAE.

Who is Abdulla Lutfi?

Renowned for his enchanting and playful cartoon-like monochrome drawings, Lutfi, 30, is an autistic savant — a rare condition where someone with a developmental or intellectual disability demonstrates exceptional giftedness in specific areas. Reflecting on the collaboration, Lutfi expressed his gratitude, saying: "It's an honour for me that Vox Cinemas has bestowed so much respect on me and my work."

The artist opened up about his early experiences, too. "I was made to realise I was somehow different from other people at a young age. People often looked down on me for stimming." (Stimming is a medical term for when autistic individuals speak to themselves to prevent them from having a meltdown and regulate their concentration when they are overwhelmed by the activity around them.)

Sharing more about his personal journey, he said: "My mother never told me that I was on the Autism spectrum. I only discovered my disability when I graduated from mainstream school to attend an art academy for people of determination called Mawaheb – From The Beautiful People."

With the support of his mother and Mawaheb, Lutfi's talents were nurtured. "My art began to be recognised nationwide, and that was a source of great pride and joy for me. I feel privileged to be blessed with the gift of creativity."

Lutfi is a standout in the UAE art scene. His work graces Dubai International Airport, Etihad Airlines, and he's crafted promotions for brands like Sephora, Apple, Barakat, and Colgate. Abdulla's art also adorned the Sustainability Pavilion at the 2020 Expo project.

Gulshan Kavarana, his mentor, recalls how the collaboration with Vox Cinemas unfolded. "We saw an advertisement on social media about VOX Cinema launching an art competition to commemorate the national day, with the winners' work featured on their popcorn tub. I had no doubt that Abdulla would be the winner from the very beginning."

Abdulla, an ambassador for people of determination, emphasises inclusion and acceptance. He conducts drawing workshops in schools and corporate events, using permanent markers on canvas to portray a spectrum of black and white hues.

"There is no pretense in Abdulla’s art. There is an element of playfulness and an intelligent witty repartee. His art does not reflect peculiarity; it is inclusive and upbeat. Everyone can relate to his art," Gulshan said.

Abdulla's favourite subjects include Dubai skylines, Emirati people, and light-hearted anecdotes about himself. He says, "I enjoy burgers, video games, and spending time with my cousins." When asked about his future aspirations, Abdulla, with a mischievous tone, replies, "I want to get married, but I don’t want children. I also aim to see my work featured on the Emirates planes, the upcoming Emirates rail, and the Burj Khalifa."

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