Flashback 2019: Arts and culture highlights

Flashback 2019: Arts and culture highlights
Yaar Julahe, a production staged in December

It was 52 art-packed weeks brimming with creativity, inspiration and talent

By Purva Grover

Published: Thu 26 Dec 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Jan 2020, 8:07 AM

What a busy art calendar we've had this year! From afternoon storytelling sessions to Dastangoi (Urdu art of storytelling) evenings, local comic acts, open mic poetry nights, outdoor jam sessions, dramatic productions, writing workshops, film screenings, art festivals, magic shows, we tasted a bit of every art form. Weekday evenings too had us busy with script readings, improv nights, communication workshops and, yes, auditions. The art season was full of lessons and laurels. Let's run through the highlights.

Larger than life
If in 2018, we were pained by the closing down of DUCTAC, in 2019, we were thrilled with the opening of the larger-than-life venue, the Coca Cola Arena. Of course, we'll need to loot a bank to perform here. But hey, one can watch the shows and get entertained and inspired.

The new spaces for art
Every other eatery and auditorium opened its doors to artistes. Emirates Theatre (Emirates International School) and Sheikh Rashid Auditorium (The Indian High School) became passé, as Saudi German Hospital Dubai, The Clavichord, Kickers Sports Bar, Jameel Arts Centre and SIMA Performing Arts became regular spots for performances. Bitten by the bug, we too staged a play, The Park, at Khaleej Times' premises.

Visa for creative souls
The announcement by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that the emirate will launch a long-term cultural visa for artists had us grinning. A little birdie tells us there are plans to set up a creative free zone in Al Quoz as well as a literary season that'll include a book fair and related events.

Collective growth, shall we?
In the theatre community, almost every second person turned into a director-producer, with a company to their name. The result, excess of local productions. Yeah, to that. But each show struggled to get the attention of a handful of audiences. Nah, to clashing dates and eating into each other's share of the pie.

Moving beyond opening acts
There's no dearth of local comedians, yet every other weekend saw a comedian from India perform in the city. We paid to watch, whilst our local talent opened acts for them. Time to change that, eh?

Grass is greener on the other side
I missed on quite a few arty activities in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, only to learn that they are far greater in numbers. Time to drive down to these two destinations. And, there is talk of a Sharjah edition of Short + Sweet Theatre 2020 (January).

Old, new and in between
A lot of new names popped up, including writer-director Mahua Krishnadev to companies like Lollipop Productions, which hosted shows for the children. The Hive continued to do a great job by encouraging children to perform, discussions on art events became a regular on radio shows, and The Junction continued to champion the arts and served as a venue for some great productions and festivals. Alserkal Avenue stayed abuzz with action - indoors and outdoors.

Let's commit to spending, please
While flash sale of tickets to events combined with contests on radio brought in a fresh crowd to watch the locals perform, it also convinced us that it'll take a while before ticketed art shows begin to sell and expectations from artistes to perform for exposure die down.
Till we meet again, a Happy Arty Year to all of you.

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