By Sekka Team
Earlier this week, the highest temperature on earth in 2021- a stunning 53.2 degrees celsius- was recorded in the Arab Gulf State of Kuwait. With that, summer in the Gulf region has made its scorching annual debut loud and clear, and its arrival has impacted nearly every sphere of life, including the arts.
Kuwaiti digital artist and graphic designer Ahmed Al-Refaie’s Localized Summer depicts a man fully dressed in traditional clothes blissfully floating in a swimming pool. The digital art piece portrays, amongst other things, the fact that it is, “ so hot to the point where a person cannot put on his swimwear, and instead just jumps into the pool as is!” says the 34-year-old artist, whose artwork forms part of Summer in the Gulf, the Khaleeji Art Museum’s new art show.
A combination of six of the Gulf’s most well-known and promising names- Sheikha Lulwa bint Abdulaziz Alkhalifa, Alia Al Farsi, Ahmed Al-Refaie, H.H. Sayyida Meyyan Shihab Al Said, Tariq Alhajri and Fatema Al Zari- have come together to depict and share their experiences with the hottest season of the year, through the Khaleeji Art Museum’s latest art show. Dedicated to showcasing the art of the Arab Gulf States, the Khaleeji Art Museum is the first digital museum of its kind, and has since February been exhibiting and projecting the works of Gulf and Gulf-based artists and photographers on the largest permanent outdoor projection in Dubai’s Dubai Festival City as part of two’s ongoing collaboration to celebrate Khaleeji art. Previous art shows have included Khaleeji Culture and Eid Amid COVID-19. Summer in the Gulf presents an artistic portrayal of summers in the Gulf.
For Sheikha Lulwa bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, one of Bahrain’s most talented oil painters who has taken part in the show with her painting Hello Doll Face, summer is usually, “a happy, relaxed period that usually involves travel and a slower pace than the rest of the year,” she describes to us. “I think the happy feeling I get from summer is a residual feeling from when I was much younger, when school ended marking an end to homework and tests and beginning the start of the carefree summer holidays.” This colorfulness and glee that Sheikha Lulwa speaks of is also reflected in rising Omani photographer Tariq Alhajri’s Rejuvenation of Past, and the serenity that comes with a carefree existence is embodied in H.H. Sayyid Meyyan Shihab Al Said’s surreal Sail Away, both of which form part of the show.
However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic summers in the Gulf have drastically changed. For the second year in a row, the world is experiencing summer under exceptional circumstances, and in countries such as Bahrain, with new COVID-19 caused restrictions. For the last few months, the island kingdom of Bahrain, like a number of other countries, has been placed under new restrictions to curb the spread of the potent virus. “Summer is usually associated with travel especially for people from the Gulf when the soaring temperatures all but force people to seek better weather elsewhere….This summer, like the one before it, is overshadowed by the world’s preoccupation with the Coronavirus,” she adds. “My heart goes out to everyone who has been directly affected by it, whether they’ve lost loved ones, or have become ill themselves, or the frontline health workers who risk their lives every day.”
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This preoccupation with the pandemic is clearly present in the works of Oman’s renowned artist Alia Al Farsi and emerging Bahraini artist Fatema Al Zari, who also take part in the show. Alia’s painting, Corona Quarantine, depicts a group of women donning traditional Omani clothes and medical masks, isolated at home together and engaged in different activities such as painting or using their phones. “As the numbers of COVID-19 patients are soaring in Oman, this summer will be no different from last year’s summer. People will continue to spend time on their phones and following up with their close friends and families to ensure their safety and health,” says the artist draws inspiration from Oman’s people, nature and architecture.
24-year-old Fatema’s digital art piece, Summer In A Bubble, is a creative take on Virginia Woolf’s famous essay, “A Room of One’s Own.” “The iridescent colours mirror the serenity of being isolated with my work and self again. In a sense, it is about romanticizing summer as a bubble of my own to re-align before the next season begins,” says the young artist, who has been self-isolating in her home country after spending years living and studying abroad. While she would normally spend the summer holiday catching up with friends and loved ones, and visiting new spaces, she says that, “My focus has now shifted to look inside the pillars of my home—whether it is the tangible home where I reside or the homely feeling I carry within myself. Summer for me now is about re-inventing my space to keep my essence and light aglow.”
In the past, “Summer was really hot, dynamic and full. This time it feels air-conditioned, slow and intimate,” she adds.
The Summer in the Gulf Show will be available for viewing until July 27th, between 19:00 to 22:00 every night in Dubai Festival City Mall.
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