A season of fests
Come winter and the UAE's artscape gets vibrant with various forms of talents, art forms and opportunities. In the Dubai art circle, a topic that often comes up for discussion is if the other emirates are 'artier' than Dubai. "Abu Dhabi has The Louvre," some lament. "Sharjah is always buzzing with festivals and exhibitions," others add. Yet, we get lazy when it comes to driving down to these destinations. I confess my inertia, as well. So, when Australian screenwriter, playwright and director Alex Broun suggested a theatrical at the upcoming Fringe Festival, I jumped at it. After all, it's the New Year and we could resolve to learn from our neighbours.
So, what's Fringe? The Sharjah International Fringe Festival (Jan 15-31) focuses on theatre, music, puppetry, magic, dance and interactive street shows. It promises 1,000 hours of pure entertainment across 600 performances in 17 days. "Sharjah Fringe is an incredibly exciting event for performing arts not just in the UAE, but across the region," said Alex who is helping to launch the first-ever Short+Sweet festival as part of the Fringe. "There had been talks of a possible Fringe festival for several years, so congratulations are due to Sharjah for making it happen." I'm delighted to be helping and am looking forward to bringing some of the world's best 10-minute plays to the beautiful Al Qasba Masrah theatre. It will be brought to life by some of UAE's top writers, directors and actors. So, it is a chance to write your own story," says Alex who is also Head of Drama, StudioRepublik.
Come February and the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (Feb 1 and March 31) will transform the land into a creative playground. The festival celebrates connected communities and explores ways in which people build relationships with others, their surrounding environments, and the natural world. It will feature large-scale visual arts and sculpture exhibition in Al Jazeera Al Hamra Old Town, outdoor film screenings, community art workshops, and school education programmes. "I started playing with vibrant alcohol inks last year and love how they (inks) form shiny ridges. I'm excited to share my experience via the fest," said Dubai-based artist Sonu Sultania who will be hosting an art workshop during the event. "It is always fun to work with minds that love to experiment," she added.
One should also take a drive to the capital to be part of the Abu Dhabi Art. It is not a traditional art fair, but emphasis is laid on public engagement programmes all through the year. Attend one of the many ongoing exhibitions at Manarat Al Sadiyat.
No, Dubai is not to be left behind. It's gearing up to host the Quoz Arts Fest (Jan 24-25), which shall explore the theme 'In Search Of.' and feature art exhibitions, live music, food trucks, installations, films and more, including a free concert by Jordanian-Palestinian band 47soul. Have fun time exploring.
At a glance
. First-ever Fringe festival in the Middle East: sharjahfringe.com
. Eighth edition of the well-known festival: rakfinearts.ae
. Art installations, exhibitions, talks held throughout the year: abudhabiart.ae
. 60+ homegrown concepts: alserkalavenue.ae