I was first introduced to the concept of using arts for the purpose of wellness and wellbeing when I was studying for my Masters in Molecular Biology in the UK. When I look back, I realise that most of my buddies happened to be art therapists, drama therapists and music therapists who would do their internship with terminally ill patients, children with special needs and other categories of people who were challenged in some form or the other. In time, I would use art and sculpture to destress while studying for my exams. The idea that arts for wellness is applicable to everyone: young and old, sick or healthy, rich or poor, is one that appeals to me. However, when I returned to Abu Dhabi, my ‘home,’ upon completion of the Masters Degree, I did not find any art for wellness initiative that I could get involved in (this was 15 years ago).
Aren’t these paintings stunning? A panoramic view of Mawaheb paintings at Showcase Gallery
But things change, life morphs and evolves into something purer, despite challenges and hardships that this thing called life puts forth. In 2012, I found myself volunteering for a while with StartWorld.org (read the blog story here). Then I heard about Mawaheb-From The Beautiful people, and other social enterprises popping around the UAE. Brilliant move. Just a blurb about what Mawaheb does. It is an art studio dedicated to children with special needs from the age of 16 years. The art work done by these children are amazingly powerful, as you can see in the photos that I’ve taken.
Unfortunately, I never found my way to Mawaheb premises over the years. Thankfully, Mawaheb found ‘me’ in a matter of speaking. Their paintings were showcased at the Showcase Gallery, Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz, very close to where I live. I had the chance to see their paintings the day of the Al Quoz Festival, a fun day of food, community, art workshops and more.
The Mawaheb people also drew on the lamp. Isn’t that awesome?
This years exhibition was called the Dubai Skyline, where 18 artworks are displayed, focusing on an interpretation of Dubai skyline. The first artwork that grabbed my attention was the Emirates Towers where two princesses slept. Other artworks include massive triptychs of deep silver etches, trying to capture the architecture of Dubai buildings. The artwork with the Burj Khalifa in view is hit by heavenly lightening that casts a peaceful halo over the space around it.
I was curious as to why Showcase Gallery ran an annual Mawaheb show at their premises. This is what they told me. “Every year we work with Mawaheb for an exhibition that is based on a theme. We believe that it is an wonderful and a much needed cause to support these fantastic special needs adults. Not only does art help them, with their individual special needs, it also helps them to integrate into society in Dubai.”
I also noticed that they had a pop-up shop by Ayam Africa, a social enterprise supporting artisans living in Africa who create stunning pieces of jewelry. Showcase Gallery told me, “Occasionally we have pop-up social enterprise shops at our gallery. Ayam Africa is one such socially conscious company that we have helped for many years. The owner is also from Africa so we are encouraging the support of fair trade enterprises. At Showcase, we aim to create a gallery where people are not intimidated to come in and browse and ask questions; that art is for everyone, and if it also supports a social enterprise this is an added benefit.”
Ayam Africa happened to be my next door neighbours at Dubai Jazz Festival 2013 (I was showcasing my art and handcrafted cufflinks then).
While the exhibition by Mawaheb at Showcase Gallery ends on the 2nd of December, 2014, no doubt we will be seeing more beauty and talent from both these companies. I am hoping that with social enterprises and arts for wellness initiatives popping all round the UAE, someday I may be able to become part of the bigger picture; beyond just blogging about these initiatives.
On a different note, I had seen some of the Mawaheb paintings at Sedra initiative, as part of the Abu Dhabi Art this year, the same week that the Al Quoz festival took place. Here are some of their fun paintings.
Here I am (on the right) with Abu Dhabi based Iraqi-Canadian artist Fahima Fattah, in front of spectacular Mawaheb paintings at the Sedra booth, Abu Dhabi Art 2014
Sedra is a new initiative to assist special needs. As I am an artist, I was asked to draw a tree on the wall of the Sedra booth at Abu Dhabi art. Awesome! 🙂