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AFIF review in the upcoming issue – this being just A TEASER.

May 11, 2010

theartskitchen attended the FRIDGE event last evening and honestly, for a warehouse converted to a studio, we were impressed.

The lights dim, mirrors on the wall and a huge black wall on the right side of the entrance: we wondered is this where the performance will be?

Bean bags thrown around and refreshments made available, we arrived earlier than the start and could hear ‘sounds’ of the AFIF band’s ‘sound check’.

The friendly staff guided us through the top level, behind the stage backdrop and to their office space. And how everything in the public’s view and outside décor was black, the office was just the contrast – chairs, tables, laptops, files and papers – all in white.

We met Shelley Frost, Director of The Fridge, and she said, “We are so excited about this and we are looking for a REAL review, other than just listings. Where I come from, we wait for an event or performance critique and see what rating we’ve got to make ourselves better”.

Paul Williams, one of the chief writers of theartskitchen, immediately responds, “Well, that’s really where I come in”. And we burst out laughing, as if sharing a covert joke.

Now, unlike most people, theartskitchen knows how Paul can be blatantly honest in his reviews.

That’s about it for now. Do wait for theartskitchen’s blunt, critical and constructive review of the fourth FRIDGE concert series’ first performance – Jazz band AFIF.


Promoting photography as an art form

May 9, 2010

Murdoch University Photography Competition

This Thursday will witness the second annual Murdoch University Student Photography competition at the DIAC Student Hub Recreation Centre with entries from high school and university students.

The categories include: UAE high school students, UAE University Students and Murdoch University Media students enrolled in a photography unit, submitting photojournalistic photographs; in other words using Street Photography as a genre to depict the rich diverse cultures within the UAE.

The theme of the competition being Street Photography – A world in a city, the winning entries and selected photographs will be exhibited at this exhibition.

Whilst the photographs have been judged by professionals in the field, the three highest scoring entrants from each category win prizes exclusively sponsored by Nikon and Fujifilm in association with Grand Stores.

One of the outstanding features of this exhibition would be photographs taken by special needs individuals from UAE based organizations: Dubai Centre for Special Needs, Stepping Stones and the Dubai Autism Centre, with assistance of Murdoch University photography students.

These photographs are a result of a workshop organized by the university to introduce this art form to the community.

More Details:
Date: May 13, 2010 Thursday
Timings: 11AM
Venue: Dubai International Student Hub Recreation Centre
RSVP: By May 10, 2010 on +9714 355 700 or

Jazz musicians ‘Afif’ unveil fourth FRIDGE concert series

May 8, 2010

The evening of May 10, 2010 once again sees ‘The Fridge’ open its doors to six consecutive Mondays of the fourth Fridge concert series.

After an introspective third season, they are pulling out all the stops this time and bringing together some of the most quirky, rocking and rambunctious acts the city has to offer.

Featuring an inspired line-up that includes everything from the stalwarts of Dubai’s foremost jazz and classical scenes to a healthy injection of rock, folk and oriental dance – there is truly something for everyone.

‘Afif’ Jazz takes the stage on May 10 to kick things off in style. Featuring the internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Cristo Fontecilla, this is a rare chance to catch the UAE’s top jazz musicians in their element; promising yet another monster set straight out of the smokey backrooms of New York or Paris.

Where: The Fridge – Al Quoz 4 – street 26 – warehouse 5
When: every Monday from May 10 till June 14, 2010
Timings: doors open at 7:30 pm, music starts at 8 pm
Contribution in support to The Fridge: AED 50 per person, free for minus 18.
RSVP is essential:
Location map on
Contact 04-347 77 93

Iranian – American journalist’s book released last month

May 7, 2010

Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran’ is an account of Iranian – American journalist Roxana Saberi’s four month imprisonment in Iran’s Evin Prison and how an innocent is entangled in the political world tensions.

She was sent to jail after being accused of espionage and spying for the United States. “For several days, Saberi was held in solitary confinement, ruthlessly interrogated, and cut off from the outside world.” She was eventually released May 2009 after being suspended from her eight – year sentence.  

While she was haunted by the images of Iranian jail, the book has been therapeutic but difficult for her to complete.

Now in United States, Saberi is now planning a national book tour.

According to Shirin Ebadi, winner of Nobel Peace Prize, “Between Two Worlds is an extraordinary story of how an innocent young woman got caught up in the current of political events and met individuals whose stories vividly depict human rights violations in Iran.” (

Browse Inside This Book:

Browse Inside this book

Get this for your site

Film Review: City of Life

May 6, 2010

Films_CityOfLifeAli F. Mostafa (taken from the official website gallery), A scene from City of Life – Jason Flemyng and Alexandra Maria Lara (taken from the official website gallery), By Paul Williams, Posten On: Saturday May 1, 2010

While Dubai has played host to quite a few international movies, it has only ever been included in a few scenes and up until now, has never had an entire movie filmed here. This is where City of Life comes in.

Envisioned by Ali F. Mostafa, an award winning Emirati writer and director, City of Life is the first multilingual feature – length film to be produced solely in the UAE, and with all the hype that has been generated by the various showings it has done at film festivals so far, it is bound to give the UAE another reason to be known worldwide.

Before getting further into the small details about this film, I want to make one thing clear – while it did extremely well in both, the Dubai International Film Festival and the Gulf Film Festival, including the cinemas post its release – script wise it is well written however it isn’t exactly a brand new idea.

Bearing more than a few resemblances to 2005’s Crash – in terms of a storyline where a group of people are connected in some way, even though they do not realize it, and are ultimately brought together by a car pileup that changes them for good.

At the same time, City of Life does host and unify some big names from Arabic, Hollywood, Bollywood and the television industry with Natalie Dormer, Jason Flemyng, Sonu Sood, and Saoud Al Kaabi, including a cameo by the comedian, Ahmed Ahmed.

Ali F. Mostafa, with this film, has certainly brought a lot of attention to Dubai; exposed and added limelight to the budding actors and filmmakers in this region – but one of the primary reasons a lot of people seem to go watch City of Life is because of the fact that it is a Dubai – based film and a huge achievement for UAE’s film industry.

Interview with Mandy Merzaban

May 6, 2010

“Viewing artworks should not just be a privilege, but an integral part of our culture”: says Mandy Merzaban

 Mandy Merzaban with Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al – Qassemi in front of a painting –
Divine Exodus
by Khaled Hafez
theartskitchen, Posted On: Saturday, May 1 2010 
Migrating to a new country can be difficult for anybody and while most people take some time adapting to the lifestyle change, Mandy Merzaban has set about creating a new life by becoming the Gallery Manager of Barjeel Art Foundation and curator of its new exhibition, Peripheral Vision.
An amicable person and an interdisciplinary artist herself, she has spent most of her life in Canada, coming from an Egyptian descent. She graduated in 2008 with a Fine Arts and Cultural Anthropology degree from the University of British Columbia, focusing on painting and digital art. 

“I can definitely identify with some of the experiences the artists in the exhibition touch on in their artwork. I think, I am constantly trying to reconcile the gaps in geography, culture and lifestyle – having had an upbringing that was a synthesis of Canadian life and Egyptian values,” says Mandy, when asked about her thoughts on Peripheral Vision.

Coming to Dubai in 2009, Mandy has completed two internships with Art Dubai and Carbon 12, an international art gallery located in Al Quoz. “Both experiences really allowed me to meet a lot of people in the art community and learn more about the arts and culture scene in the UAE,” she responds.
In January, I began working with Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, putting together the The Barjeel Art Foundation’s first exhibition in its newly established home in the Maraya Art Centre.Peripheral Vision is the first show I have been involved in, and it is definitely an honor for me to be with Sheikh Sultan and his dynamic collection.”
Having achieved a lot in such a short span, theartskitchen questions her on the many controversial pieces at Barjeel Art Foundation’s Peripheral Vision, the methodology behind it as well as her views on the developing Middle Eastern art.

Many of the pieces from the Peripheral Vision exhibition seem quite controversial in nature. What do you think of the increased freedom of expression within the Arab art scene, as well as experimentation with the unique mediums in contemporary 20thcentury art?

Mandy: I think the pieces in The Barjeel Art Foundation’s debut exhibition, Peripheral Vision, are both intuitive and eloquent in the way they interpret the current status of Arab identities. Addressing issues like the formation of identities, as they are influenced by circumstances such as military occupation and structural violence, transformations in culture and lifestyle, or new media and mass production, the formation of an Arab identity is constantly transforming. The socio-cultural complexities that contribute to this identity building process are uniquely interpreted by the selection of artists featured in Peripheral Vision.

Artists like Manal Al Dowayan, draws from her experiences living on a compound in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, incorporating both Saudi Arabian, expatriate and Eastern Province influences in her series ‘Landscapes of the Mind’ – the series for me represents hybrid state of Arab identities; how they are shaped by conflicting and complex experiences. Salama Safadi who is an emerging Palestinian photographer from the occupied Golan Heights, assembles critical and impressive narratives through photographs by interpreting the struggles facing Palestinians and their homeland under Israeli occupation. I think it is the duty of an artist to be critical, and use their experiences in such a way that highlights the issues that are at the core of identity building.

The pieces at the Barjeel Art Foundation’s Peripheral Vision are not for commercial purposes but for demonstration and appreciation. This in itself is a unique concept – how did you come up with this concept and what are your future plans for the project?

The Barjeel Art Foundation concept is quite unique to the region. It is not a commercial gallery and its main objective is to make pieces from the collection available to the public. Viewing artworks should not just be a privilege; it should be an integral and accessible part of our culture. In the future, we would like to have rotating exhibitions in our new space in the Maraya Art Centre in Al Qasba, Sharjah, and also offer local and international exhibitions, pieces from the collection.

We would like to invite people to come and see the works, initiate discussion and to create a platform for critical dialogue. We would like to encourage people to become more aware of the kind of works that are being created by Arab artists in the region and those living abroad.

Amongst the many artworks, do you have a personal favorite and if yes, then why?

One of the key artworks now on display in Peripheral Vision is Halim Al Karim’s ‘Untitled 1’ from his series, King’s Harem. It is a larger – than – life blurred photograph of a woman in a vibrant red cloak. This piece was featured on the cover of New Vision: Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, published in London last year. This piece serves as an interesting interpretation of how memory has a dichotomous reality – it is both indefinite and everlasting. Based on what I have read on his experience, during the first Gulf War, Al Karim evaded compulsory military service by hiding out in the desert for three years. During this time, he survived through the kindness of Bedouin women, and became exposed to gypsy culture and life on the fringe of society. This image of a woman, maybe homage to one of those women who helped him. Her presence is significant and unavoidable, but like transient nature of memory and recollection her image is fading over time.

UAE is progressively becoming a vibrant hub of art, with a huge number of events every year such as Art Dubai, Bastakiya Art Fair, Abu Dhabi Festival and many others. At the same times, there is a growth in Arts Education – where universities and institutions are offering better opportunities for local talent. What do you think of this trend – where art is no longer a mere hobby but more of a field or career path and artists these days are taken very seriously, especially in the Middle East?

The art scene in the UAE is becoming a progressive force and an important part of our multifaceted culture.  For art making as a practice to become integral – means that we will only continue to encourage local talent to produce art and in turn add, more dimension to the arts and culture scene.

A lot of artists now use online media such as social networking sites or blogs to promote themselves. Despite this being the beauty of online media, do you not think it challenges art collectors and exhibitors like yourself, who aim to promote these artists, because of the increasingly popular self promotion online?

Artists and artworks are becoming more accessible, and I think using the internet to build awareness enhances rather than challenges interest in artists producing today.  It should be about the artist more than it is about the collector. I think for an artist, utilizing  these technologies to better distribute a message, or gain more exposure does not evaporate the value of the artist’s work; the technology would be there to supplement the eagerness to see the work in person. If an artist has a blog online, it adds another dimension to their practice and it can become another avenue of expression that is easily accessible.

Do you have any piece of advice for the emerging local artists in UAE, who are still in the process of establishing themselves?

Continue to make art, take constructive criticism, make more work, keep reading and immersing yourself in the art scene.

For more information on Barjeel Art Foundation or the various artworks, please log on to or contact Ms. Mandy Merzaban

Choreographer completes ten successful years

May 6, 2010

Sharmila, By Anika Habib, Posted On: Saturday May 1, 2010

Prominent UAE choreographer, Sharmila Kamte and her Dance Company marked their tenth anniversary by organizing a masterpiece show, Sharmila’s Dance Extravaganza, at the DUCTAC (Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre) on April 23 and 24.

Whilst the crowd’s enthusiasm and energy was exhilarating, just like every year, the event showcased the different dance skills to a packed house.

“You would think it would be easier, having done this for so many years in a row but it was very stressful. Because it was the tenth year, you want to do it a little bit better. Having spent more on production and having so much more publicity you want to raise the bar a bit. 190 dancers was a lot (to handle) this year and the show became quite long – two and half hours”, responds Sharmila, when questioned about the challenge of organizing a show that marked her company’s tenth anniversary.

According to her, the show was a large representation of herself. An infusion of all dance types from hip hop, jazz, contemporary, western-cowboy-square, jive, ballet, Bollywood, folk and even silk – the dances were more than just a showcase of skills.

Including this were some thought provoking miniature stories and scenes within each performance, along with cheerleading, lounge singing, seventies party, belly dancing and futuristic robotic scenes, with 190 amateur and professional dancers of all ages, levels and nationalities. The closing performance was by Sharmila herself.

When ask her to pick a favorite genre, she says, “I can’t pick ‘one favorite’ dance type, my favorites would have to be a cross between hip hop, lyrical contemporary, ballet and jazz. Just can’t pick and choose one.”

She came to Dubai for personal reasons and ended up doing extremely well. “I love this place, I love that it’s so multicultural. It’s a city that definitely made me who I am today. When you take dance and kids who are really interested in it, you have to do it in a way that is respectable to the society you live in, which also forms part of the culture.”

Her most memorable moment: “There’s too much, it’s got to be all of it – being able to travel, getting so many opportunities, having a lot of fun, dancing before Lionel Ritchie, goes on and of course, this show – My Dance Extravaganza.”

All we can say to her – It’s not just one of your most memorable moments, Sharmila and your audience can vouch for that.

(Taken from