By Colin Simpson  www.thenational.ae

The UAE’s newest art gallery has opened with a show inspired by photographs taken by children in Lesotho and a charity auction that raised Dh163,000 for orphans in the southern African country.

Alia Rashid al Shamsi's Our Last Days As Children, part of an inaugural exhibition and charity auction at the Ara Gallery. The artwork is one of a series by Emirati artists who drew inspiration from photographs taken by youngsters in Lesotho, southern Africa. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Alia Rashid al Shamsi's Our Last Days As Children, part of an inaugural exhibition and charity auction at the Ara Gallery. The artwork is one of a series by Emirati artists who drew inspiration from photographs taken by youngsters in Lesotho, southern Africa. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The youngsters were given 150 disposable cameras and asked to capture elements from their daily lives that made them happy. The sky, umbrellas, watering cans, kettles, plants and wheelbarrows were among the subjects they chose.

Six Emirati artists were then invited to base artworks around some of the 1,400 images, and the results were unveiled this weekend at the Ara Gallery in Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai.

Each artist donated a work to the Christie’s-run auction, the proceeds of which went to raise money for Habitat for Humanity’s orphans and vulnerable children programme in Lesotho. The charity will also receive 2.5 per cent of the price of every work sold during the exhibition.

The gallery was inaugurated by Abdul Rahman al Owais, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, who said: “It’s amazing to see young artists from the Emirates participating together to share an idea and to come up with an auction that will help an international organisation like Habitat.

“The gallery is going to focus on young artists and I think you can see a few rising stars here. The artists are doing a wonderful job and we are seeing more and more groups, galleries, artists – the whole chain.

“Our leaders and our people are building an excellent environment for culture, and it’s going to be better and better.”

The Ara Gallery’s founder, Moza Mohamed al Abbar, said: “We aim to showcase exhibitions that have a strong message behind them, a concept. Our inaugural exhibition is a perfect example of that.

“The gallery exists to serve the artists of the future, to offer them exposure, and get them out there. Our main aim is to showcase the hidden talents in the UAE and the Arab world generally.

“We wish to bring together artists, art-lovers and the public and educate them about art, who the young upcoming artists are, and basically create a comfortable yet professional atmosphere for artists to showcase themselves.”

The opening exhibition, “Through the Eyes of Africa’s Children”, was curated by Janet Bellotto. “The camera gave these children the chance to see their world differently, and present their perspective beyond their community,” she said. “The artists had the opportunity to sift through piles of photographs from which they could draw inspiration and interpret through their diverse approaches to image making.”

The artists are Alia Rashid al Shamsi, Khawla al Marri, Maryam al Sayegh, Maryam al Qassimi, Saeed al Madani and Saeed Khalifa. Their works show people, patterns inspired by traditional blanket designs and a range of everyday objects.

Mr al Madani said: “My intention was to extract a fragment out of each photo and use it not only to reflect the creative eye of the child who took the photograph but also to infuse my personal perception of what the photo meant to me.”

Ms al Marri described the gallery as a “breakthrough” that offered Emirati artists “the chance to give a little to the less fortunate through art”.

The show continues until May 21.

csimpson@thenational.ae

The amount of money raised at the charity auction has been amended in this article from Dh50,000 to Dh163,000. A technical misunderstanding caused the problem.

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