The Sheikha Manal Art Exchange Program establishes culture of dialogue in Hong Kong
Last week, a delegation of young, Emirati women artists participating in The Sheikha Manal Art Exchange Program returned to Dubai following a successful visit to Hong Kong as part of an enriching art program, centred on the acclaimed Art Basel Fair.
The group comprised of 10 students pursuing careers in art, design and architecture from universities across the Emirates; under the supervision of Mona bin Kalli, Director of The Cultural Office, Khalid Shafar, respected UAE artist and representing facilitator to the delegation, as well as members from The Cultural Office Organising Committee. This program was sponsored by Emirates Airlines.
The visit marked the third edition of this ambitious Exchange Program – founded by Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Women Establishment, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Presidential Affairs, UAE – as a significant initiative designed to foster genuine understanding, respect and appreciation between diverse cultures.
Over the course of the 7-day excursion, the students experienced not only the Art Basel Fair, but also some of the most prominent art establishments in Hong Kong such as the Osage Gallery, HK Museum of Art, Savannah School of Art & Design (SCAD), Hong Kong Design Institute, HK Museum of History, Asia Art Archive and Sam Tung Uk Museum – where they were able to interact with an international art community fostering dialogue and exchange of ideas.
Commenting on the occasion, Mona Bin Kalli, Director of The Cultural Office of HH Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “This program stems from Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s unwavering belief in of the critical role that education plays in the development of the arts. Our hope from this initiative is to boost the participants’ skills and academic knowledge as well as cultural diversity by creating their own experiences and memories within the parameters of a international thriving contemporary art scene.”
The Hong Kong itinerary was designed of fulfil one of three criteria: International Art Exposure, Art Education and History & Culture. Accordingly, the group visited a number of educational institutes where they attended specially organised lectures and workshops such as a Digital Media Workshop on Interactive Design & Game Development at Savannah School Art & Design; a discussion on Art practices in Hong Kong in recent years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and a special Art Basel Salon Artist Talk on the subject of ‘Violent Changes: Facts and Fiction’ with a world-class panel comprised of Ahmed Matar, Artist from Saudi Arabia and Philip Tinari, Director of Ullens Centre Art in Beijing.
Also on the agenda were various visits and meetings with international artists and experts including an exclusive VIP Tour of Art Basel, where the students were learnt more about how collectors and art critics identify outstanding works at fairs; a special viewing of the ‘Ju Ming – Sculpting the Living World’ exhibit at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, visit to Osage Gallery to view the ‘Erasure: From Conceptualism to Abstraction’ exhibit which was also accompanied by a symposium on ‘Art and Values’ where invited speakers examined the increasingly over-determined economic interpretation of the value of art.
Moreover, the students also visited the sites for the ‘Symphony of Lights’, which is the largest permanent light and sound show in the world; and ‘Alpha Pulse’ – an audiovisual public installation on the façade of the 490-metre-high International Commerce Centre Building in West Kowloon, by Carston Nicolai. The display featured a pulsating light based on viewer interaction through a custom-designed app that allows the user to synchronise the phone camera to the pulsing light sources in such a way that the screen and the sound of the mobile device will be rhythmically and acoustically in tune.
The third and final wing of the tour explored the history and culture of the city through guided tours of key locations such as Asia Art Archive, HK Museum of History, HK Museum of Heritage, city tours of Soho/Noho/Poho, Man Po Temple and the renowned Sam Tung Uk Museum. There was also a scheduled visit to the UAE Consulate in Hong Kong.
Moreover, the students also used this opportunity to represent the Arab female voice, demystify the Arab women and their perceived stereotypical image to an international audience. They explained the role Arab women play in the arts and their impact on the development of educational program related to the same.
The participants expressed strong admiration for the City of Hong Kong, Ameena Al Ali, a Visual Arts student from Zayed University Dubai commented, “Our trip was not only informative, but also an eye opener to the potentials of art and design education and how it benefits both the nation and artists. I was greatly impressed by the emphasis that Hong Kong puts on nurturing the arts, and is clearly one of the main reasons behind it’s high ranking as one of the best art and design scenes in the world.”
The Sheikha Manal Art Exchange Program will culminate with the hosting of a special art exhibition allowing the participants to showcase works of art inspired by this collective creative experience in Hong Kong. The exhibition is scheduled in October 2014.
The AEP students comprised of Mira Almazrooei, Architecture, American University of Sharjah; Mitha Altamimi, Multimedia Design & IT, Zayed University – Abu Dhabi; Ameena Al Ali, Visual Art, Zayed University – Dubai; Amna Bin Thaneya, Architecture, American University in Dubai; Sara Bastaki, Architecture, American University in Dubai; Aysha Alkhoori, Architecture, United Arab Emirates University; Sawsan Al Qassimi, Visual Communication, American University of Sharjah; Amal Al Ali, Visual Art, New York University Abu Dhabi; Mariam Albinali, Graphic Design, Zayed University – Abu Dhabi; and Marieh Sharaf, Architecture, American University in Dubai.
First launched in 2008, The Sheikha Manal Art Exchange Program (AEP) is one of several art initiatives that reinforces’ the vision of HH Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to enhance and develop the talents of UAE women by providing Emirati female artists the opportunity to experience art at an international level, while also fostering a culture of understanding and awareness about the Middle Eastern art and culture scene.
The first edition of AEP was in 2008, where in 14 female students from UAE universities pursuing visual arts, design and multimedia, selected via a stringent qualification process, were able to experience contemporary art of international caliber at Art Basel. Upon their return to the UAE, the participants created a tangible work of art inspired by their collective experience from this educational trip in an exhibition entitled ‘The Collective Experience’. The exhibition was also showcased at Art Basel Miami in 2009 in the Art Guest Lounge.
In 2009, another batch 14 female Emirati students were given the opportunity to experience the renowned Frieze Art Fair London including study tours with the most prestigious art institute’s in the United Kingdom such us Tate Modern Museum, Serpentine Gallery and University of Arts as well as visits to various artist studios and private collections. Through initiatives such as these, The Sheikha Manal Art Exchange Program seeks to encourage and highlight the role of UAE women in art and open new vistas for talented young women through strategic partnerships with globally renowned art and academic institutions.
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