- New light art festival at Expo City Dubai features a selection of works by seven established Emirati artists
- Dhai Dubai is curated by Expo City Dubai Executive Creative Director Amna Abulhoul and
AGB Creative Director and CEO Anthony Bastic AM
- Among those taking part are Mattar Bin Lahej, Dr Najat Makki, Dr Mohamed Yousef, Abdulla Almulla, Maitha Hamdan, Khalid Alshafar and Reem Al Ghaith
DUBAI-— Expo City Dubai, in partnership with AGB Creative and Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, is excited to announce the lineup for the first ever Dhai Dubai Light Art Festival. For this inaugural event, which will illuminate Dubai for 10 nights from January 26 to February 4, curators Amna Abulhoul, Expo City Dubai Executive Creative Director, and Anthony Bastic AM, founder of AGB Creative, have worked with a remarkable selection of seven established Emirati artists, each a beacon of creativity and cultural depth.
Set to grace the Dhai Dubai Light Art Festival with their visionary installations, these artists, each with their own story to tell, embody the spirit of Dubai – through a fusion of tradition and contemporary artistry. Their works are not just installations; they are stories woven in light, reflections of the UAE’s rich heritage, and windows to our collective future.
Among those taking part are Mattar Bin Lahej, known for designing the calligraphic façade on the Museum of the Future; pioneering artist Dr Najat Makki, honoured with the French Chevalier of Arts and Letters; Emirates Fine Arts Society co-founder Dr Mohamed Yousef; designer Abdulla Almulla, who participated in the London Design Biennale and Dubai Design Week last year, multi-disciplinary artist Maitha Hamdan, esteemed designer Khalid Al Shafar, renowned for his collaborations with LASVIT and the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, and celebrated visual artist Reem Al Ghaith.
Mattar Bin Lahej is a versatile artist, specializing in painting, photography, sculpture and design. His art is distinguished by the creative use of Arabic calligraphy and a bold approach to form and movement, often inspired by the majesty of and drama horses mid-motion – a testament to their historic importance in Emirati culture. Referred to as the ‘Man of Steel,’ Bin Lahej’s works embody a distinctive narrative, blending emotion and storytelling, which vividly represent the cultural essence of the UAE.
Dr. Najat Makki is a pioneering Emirati artist from Dubai, renowned for her abstract and colourful depictions of the UAE’s natural landscapes and her female figures. Her work, characterised by the use of fluorescent paints and UV-A lighting, creates immersive, dreamlike experiences, drawing inspiration from the country’s inspiring women, and Dubai’s historic lifeline of the Creek. Makki’s art, deeply rooted in her curiosity for color and form, reflects a unique perspective on the region’s beauty, bridging the gap between traditional aesthetics and contemporary art.
Dr. Mohamed Yousef is celebrated for his whimsical and delicate sculptures inspired by his memories of growing up in the UAE, often crafted from palm tree fronds native to the UAE desert. Mohamed’s multifaceted talent extends to theatre, where he contributes as a playwright, director, and actor, infusing his artworks with a dynamic interplay of motion and stillness. His significant participation in international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale, and numerous awards highlight his influential role in shaping the UAE art scene. Mohamed’s art, blending figuration and abstraction, reflects his engagement with the natural environment and the cultural narratives of his homeland.
Abdalla Almulla is celebrated for his geometrically inspired architectural designs, particularly his interpretation of the minaret, which explores the relationships between light and the five prayer times. His work, characterised by the innovative use of patterns and geometry, explores the intersections of tradition and technology, and design theory and visual aesthetics. Almulla’s creations embody a fusion of creativity and functionality, marking him as a key figure in the contemporary architectural scene of the UAE.
Khalid Alshafar is known for his groundbreaking fusion of Emirati culture and contemporary design elements. With a distinct portfolio spanning furniture and intricate objects, Alshafar’s creations transcend mere aesthetics, embodying a profound personal connection between form and function. His work, characterized by both aesthetic allure and practicality, serves as a dynamic testament to the evolving design landscape of Dubai and the broader Middle East. Alshafar’s innovative approach redefines the boundaries of design, reflecting a harmonious blend of cultural heritage and modernity.
Reem Al Ghaith is a creative polymath who has worked in the fields of visual art, cultural research, creative direction and design entrepreneurship. As an artist, Al Ghaith is celebrated for her explorations of urban transformation in the UAE through mixed media. Her portfolio encompasses photography, print and installation art, capturing the dynamic evolution of her native city of Dubai. Her artworks have represented the UAE in several internationally prominent institutions, including Venice Biennial, Center Pompidou, The Haus Der Kunst, The Mori Art Museum, the Shanghai Expo and the United Nations Headquarters. Reem’s visual art is characterized by a unique perspective on how construction and development interact with the region’s heritage, offering viewers a window into the rapidly changing landscape of the Emirates.
Maitha Hamdan is a multidisciplinary artist who works with fabric and textiles, as well as performances exploring social boundaries, religion and narratives. Maitha is also a filmmaker and a graduate fellow artist from the Shaikha Salama Bint Hamdan Foundation programme, Salama Emerging Artists Fellowship Program Cohort 7, and part of Azyamii Program by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council 2019. She was also a resident artist at the Cultural Foundation Art Residency Program 2021 and is a current member at the 2023 Critical Practice Program in Tashkeel – Dubai.
Co-curator Amna Abulhoul says: “Announcing this remarkable line-up of Emirati artists brings us one step closer to the start of what promises to be an incredible festival, further strengthening Dubai’s position as a destination for global arts events. We are honoured to host this wonderful group of multiple generations of Emirati artists, who will play a pivotal role in placing this first edition of Dhai Dubai Light Art Festival onto both the local and global stages.
“The UAE is home to a vast array of brilliant artists and creatives, which made selecting artists for this first edition not an east task, The participating artists each come with their own unique stories that beautifully complement one another, and together tell the story of Dubai, which visitors will see come to life at Dhai Dubai. Each guest will have an opportunity to stand alongside the individual artworks and embark on a journey, culminating in a wonderful artistic integration under the magical Al Wasl Dome.”
Anthony Bastic AM said: “Light is such a significant part of Emirati and Arab culture. The art and architecture of this region are renowned for their exquisite use of light and shadow. This innate meaning and profound influence of light gives deep resonance to this festival. It is a festival rooted in its place, Dubai, and in the work of its local artists who help shape the Emirate’s unique cultural identity.”
Dhai Dubai runs from January 26 to February 4, 2024 at Al Wasl Plaza, Expo City Dubai. For more information, please visit https://www.dhaidubai.com and sign up for updates.