Last year, when I saw huge cartoons hanging from the ceiling from one of the galleries in Al Serkal Avenue (as part of the Al Quoz Festival), due to International Migrants Day, I knew that I had to be part of this project the next year. The boxes were creatively carved, drawn on, stamped on, and lit and would have made a beautiful aerial dwelling. Well, 18 December 2015 came round very quickly and I was pleased to be part of the day with ZeeArts Community. Life does get interesting when one is not only a blogger but also involved in the arts and design.
Thursday, 17 December 2015, saw me at my school alumni in Abu Dhabi. I was invited as part of the social media and blog content panel, addressing 800 high school students on their career day. The next day, saw me back in Dubai finishing up a travel feature for an inflight magazine, before diving straight into the International Migrants Day project, held at Dubai International Arts Centre (DIAC). ZeeArts Community, an artist activist community in Dubai, and Jeff Scofield, Director of Art Gallery 76 based in DIAC.
What is International Migrants Day?
There is an increasing number of migrants around the world. The General Assembly of United Nations, about 15 years ago, observed 18 December as International Migrants Day.
Zaahirah Zabeen Muthy, founder of ZeeArts needs no introduction. I’ve been a part of her vibrant community many times now, we are practically family! I first learnt of Jeff’s work through the sustainability work that he has doe as part of a Liwa Art residency. I’m a fan of sustainable and upcycled art and had been following his upcycled art installations in the media the last few months. So, I was really happy to have met him in person.
The reason he got interested in doing a joint project with ZeeArts Community for the International Migrants Day was as a result of his artist friend based in Calais, France, Corine Pagny. Corine became concerned about the plight of the migrants who were stuck in Calais and wanted to do something to alleviate their situation. Thus came about her idea for a project called ‘Art in the Jungle‘ that focuses on migrants in Europe. He then collaborated with Zaahirah, an open call for artists led me to enroll for the project and we were back again in our creative and artistic mood.
Jeff said, “We are pleased to contribute to this project. Our intention is to spread the word of peace and compassion for migrants to the general public all round the world.”
The project process at DIAC
12 artists, including myself, came together at DIAC to create our own concept of what migration means to us. Each of us hail from different countries and some of us are third culture kids such as myself. I may not be a migrant but I know what it means to live in a country which is not your country of origin. Still, migration, could be seen in a metaphorical manner, like a space in the movement that life moves in cycles (read more about third culture kids in an article I wrote for Good magazine here). Small cardboard boxes became our playground. We anointed them with all sorts of materials, such as sequins, glitter, thread, ribbons, gold foils and of course acrylic paints.
Jeff said, “We hung postcards made by children at the Art Centre during the past week, and origami birds that I folded myself.”
At the end, our installations were hung from the green arch which Jeff referred to as “signifying passage, as migrants are certainly living a life of passage.” The arbor, according to him, symbolised growth and hope for the future lives of migrants.
This was the fun part.
The winning photo – a picture of togetherness
Thanks to the artists for supplying the photos:
Zaahirah, Jeff, Elizabeth, Manisha