Having moved to Europe and taking a hiatus from living and working in the region, I found myself quite often in the midst of many a ‘cultured’ conversation defending the integrity and existence of the artistic presence in the GCC region. I may not be from here originally, but it pained me deeply whenever it was claimed that Dubai is a city without soul or history. Unfortunately, this is a generalization which seems to reflect perhaps a lack of knowledge towards a subject so worthy of discussion, and a community that is indeed existent, and thriving.
Times are a changing.
Most recently with the development of d3 design district , the continued success of International fairs such as Design Days, the Sharjah Biennale and the openings of the Louvre and Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi – we are being noticed, and can begin to discuss the effects of the integration of larger institutions and explore collaborations on an international scale. Given the rate of growth and innovation of the region as a whole, this movement was bound to happen. However, the pace at which the art and design community has, and continues to grow is testament to the relentless support and disciplinary encouragement from the top. The ‘spirit’ of the growing region is in itself is a driver of innovation.
Whilst it’s wonderful that these large-scale institutions and bodies have put us on the map, it is so important not to lose sight of and discount those who existed (and even thrived) before the more recent activity. We have to recognise the smallermovers and shakersin the region who do an incredible job of promoting not only local skilled artisans, artists and designers - but give ‘creatives’ from all over the world a chance to explore our region.
One such institute is Tashkeel Studio- a contemporary art organisation established in 2008 by Lateefa bint Maktoum. It’s quietly nestled in Nad al Sheba, away from the bright lights of Downtown Dubai, the industrial heart of Al Quoz, and the new-ness of d3. In my opinion, it is one of Dubai’s most creative institutions that thrives in an ever-so humble manor.
Through it's commitment to facilitate art and design practice, creative experimentation and cross-cultural dialogue, it really is a gem of the Dubai art and design community.
I first came across Tashkeel whislt working amid the contemporary art scene here, and I began following the works of Ruben Sanchez- a guest artist at Tashkeel and El Saeed, an artist in residence. Since then, I have followed each of Tashkeel’s designers and artists. I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of their events and the bodies of work spawned from within its walls.
Tashkeel commits to the idea of keeping the artist ‘at the core’, and does so through its continual support of locally-based creatives. As a core initiative, this program supports selected designers living and working in the UAE by encouraging the development and production of a range of products that are then showcased at Design Days Dubai, and are available to purchase as a limited editions under Tashkeel’s design product label, Tanween.
With youth programs, seminars, workshops, exhibitions of both a solo and thematic nature, screenings and events, Tashkeel has something cooking year-round.
2018 will see an addition of workshops such as Japanese Woodblock Printing, Arabic Calligraphy, and an Introduction to the Dark Room!