Talk | The Alumni Returns at Tashkeel by Salama Nasib

On Saturday December 8th, Tashkeel hosted a talk as part of their Tashkeel Talk series titled with: The Alumi Returns. Moderated by Tashkeel Deputy Director Lisa Ball-Lechgar, the open discussion covered experiences and lessons of overseas arts and design education and the impact of coming back to the UAE, with four artists that have recently returned as MA, MFA and PHD graduates.

Dr. Karima Al Shomely (PHD, Kingston University, UK), Khalid Mezaina (MFS, Rhode Island School of Design, USA), Saeed Al Madani and myself (MA, Royal College of Art, UK).

The talk took place at Tashkeel’s beautiful garden with a lovely intimate group of attendees. We shared a lot of stories that influenced our experiences, as surprisingly the four of us shared certain similar coincidences despite the miles/ years apart. Some of the points/ questions covered during the talk were the importance of pursuing a higher education and whether its needed, the education system difference between the UK and the USA, and the difference between MAs and MFAs and their impact in the UAE. Of course the four of us mentioned our goal of pursuing a further degree in the arts and how it has influenced our practice and such.

A live stream recording is available online on Tashkeel’s Facebook page. Please listen to the whole discussion here and leave a comment! Excuse my sick, unflattering voice as I usually like to think I sound more graceful when talking ;)

Thank you for attending and listening.

Photos courtesy of Tashkeel.


In Focus | Once Upon A Childhood by Salama Nasib

Once Upon A Childhood marks the first official commissioned project post RCA and London. I was very ecstatic when I was approached by DCT (Department of Culture and Tourism) in Abu Dhabi to be part of the second edition of Emirati Traditional Games exhibition. Five UAE based artists were invited to interpret a folklore game in a contemporary manner, to be showcased in Al Ain’s Al Qattara Art Center. This edition of the exhibition highlighted five popular Emirati games including: Um Al Iyal (Salama Nasib), Khoosa Boosa (Eman Al Hashimi), Al Sagla (Afra Al Dhaheri), Adim Al Sira (Aya Riad) and Al Gaheef (Abdullah Al Mulla), and each of the artists was encouraged to propose an interactive piece of artwork. The aim of the exhibition is to preserve those traditional games with their chants for the generations to come, and showcase their resilience no matter how much technology may direct our everyday life.

Um Al Iyal (mother of the children) is a very popular game that I myself used to play a lot when I was a kid. It is also related to the notions of a mother protecting her children, which fell perfectly with my personal practice. The game consists of an attentive mother played by an older member of the children, where the rest of the children line up to take a cover behind her forming a train. Another child plays the role of a wolf eager to capture and hold the younger children. The game continues like this between attack and defense, where the wolf tries to capture a child but the mother keeps on protecting, until eventually the mother gets tired and everyone flees in every direction with the wolf in pursuit. There is a lovely song that accompanies the game which says:

“Knock, knock!

‘Who’s there?’ responds the mother.

‘I’m the wold, here to devour you all!’ replies the wolf.

‘And I’m the mother who’ll protect you all’, says the mother.”

For my piece I focused on two main aspects: the interactive part as well as the narrative behind the game. It came naturally to me to think of it as a comic story, especially that I am visiting this game after so many years apart. I decided to deal with it as a comic story brought to life, highlighting the pinnacle of the game itself. The idea of turning 2D drawings into 3D installation pieces was something that I always wanted to do (I somehow have done it with few of my other pieces before). I was very inspired looking at Hermès’ window displays which are super creative and fun to look at! A drawing of the scene was proposed and decided to turn that exact drawing from 2D to 3D.

My research involved looking at various window displays, making mock ups of the best material to use, deciding on THE white shade to paint the objects with, deciding on a support base that doesn’t look bulky,..etc. So many tests and decisions took place in between the week and a half that i had just to finish and deliver these pieces. It was very hectic for sure, but I did meet a lot of kind people and collaborated with talented suppliers who I am sure will go back to work with. Make Works website was very helpful indeed with that part so I would recommend finding suppliers there. I decided to go with 9mm MDF wood, manually cut in shapes using jigsaws, 9mm MDF base with soft round edges, two hallow plinths for two sculptures to stand on, a platform to hold all sculptures together, and all painted in JOTUN’s Skylight 1624. As for the details, the drawings were traced on illustrator where I spent 4 days just fixing every single line in there, to be screen-printed in two layers at the end. Told you it’s a bit extra for only a week and a half.

I had some issues with the team handling the vinyl print of the background image, so I worked with Brand in Style where they printed the right shade of color and they supervised the delivery to Al Ain and installing the vinyl themselves. Very reliable company so once again I would recommend them.

The end result? Yes I am happy. The more I look at it, the more I feel like not changing a thing on it. I may have liked to add few more pieces here and there, but I am super happy with it and was so glad to see younger audiences interacting with the game as it was meant to be. The exhibition will be on until July of 2019. Please make sure to visit Al Qattara Arts Center and check out the rest of the games.


Fall 2017 at RCA & London by Salama Nasib

I couldn't believe my self starting the second year at RCA already. It seemed too soon to begin thinking about the degree show already, which was kind of stressing me out since the summer break. I knew time will pass by so quick the minute I step back to college, given my first year experience of more life hustle and less of studio life, so I guess that's a legit excuse ain't it. As stressed out as I may have looked (hopefully not too much!), I was ready to take on the second year with more energy, more determination, and even more hustling! 

The second year started so well already with Fatima (Tima) Ouzden and Moza Al Matrooshi joining MA studies in London. It felt lovely getting to know each other even more being away from hometown and coming to London for the same purposes. As the first batch of RCA Arabs have graduated already and returned back to their countries, seeing new faces certainly gave us more hope and determination for the Arab Art Salon. I am not sure if I ever mentioned this before so excuse the memory loss (which is typical), but a bunch of us Arabs studying at RCA formed a group to reconnect and discuss topics and issues that we face at school coming from the Middle East. It started mainly as a way to vent away the lame commentaries we receive during our school critiques and discussions, and grew to become a more powerful and insightful cultural facet to the RCA/ western audience. Few new faces joined this group including Noura Al Serkal and Rana Al Ogaily, and serious devoted tasks and goals were established and aimed for. More details here.

Speaking about the studio life, the fall term was a bit slow. We moved to our new studios which were double the size of the first year studios. It felt fresh and I loved my studio peers. Luckily my studio was located inside a small room with a door so we were able to have more privacy and quiet time in there to focus. I really wanted to pick up the personal memory topic again and so I have decided to continue the "Transition" series perhaps it can help achieve my goal. I had the chance to go to the Kensington campus more often that term, and investigate the possibilities of using different tools and techniques for the base support including CNC router, 3D Printer and Laser cutter. Some tests were great actually but there was something in me that wasn't convinced 100% so once again took my time with this series. In the meantime the Print department started introducing an ongoing induction series that cover Photo-Etching, Photo-Lithography and screen-printing techniques. All running at the same time with different technicians and signed-up students, for a period of 2-3 hours a day, to gather at the end and compare results between all of these various techniques. It was the first time I witnessed and worked on photo-lithography, with that bada** Fag/Korrex flat bed press! I instantly fell in love with the process from A-Z (of course), from digitalizing the images to exposing them on litho metal sheets to registering on the press to printing them. As it goes with any print technique, the preparation of the process takes longer than the actual printing itself. David Bowie was our main guy there but that little picture of two figures playing is a test of mine.

In the summer I had few ideas that I sketched out, playing with positive and negative spaces and with imageries and drawings. At the time I was thinking of screen-printing but since the photo-litho induction I decided to go ahead with the experiment and present the results in my print department presentation day. Those are pictures of me presenting in the big Gorvy Lecture Theatre. Received amazing comments and somehow ideas started flowing after the presentation. 

At the same time I was working on four different projects including a commissioned project and an open call one. The commissioned project was for The Address Hotel in Dubai which there will be a separate post about it soon. The open call was for a newly established group based in Paris, focused on issues related to women and tits! I found it interesting and a different kind of topic to explore visually, and as a way to encourage and support this group I worked on an illustration. More will be shared on a separate post. The third project was Xmas Fete - an annual event hosted at RCA where students can sell their products in time for Christmas holidays and gifts hunting! The print department rented three tables and we all sold a variety of products including: original hand-printed editions, holiday cards, tote bags and much more. I took the chance to screen-print the moon series onto papers, tote bags, and postcards. I also made some special Christmas edition postcards. It was a fun project and a good start to my future e-shop :) The fourth project was an annual print initiative project where the second year students plan a project to edition and distribute, share or exhibit in various locations outside RCA. We settled on an Envelope project in which each student is meant to interpret the word “letter” or “envelope” in an open, free context. As I was looking through the scanned old photos of my mother, I noticed her sweet, lovely smile and couldn’t resist but feel so nostalgic about it. I miss it and I felt the need to keep it alive in my head. That’s how the idea of my envelope project came to life. It was a letter from my heart to my brain, with a smile of my mother inside, and a wish that said: “please remember this smile and never forget it”. A simple and genuine interpretation of the project that became very close to my heart. This marked the successful beginning of tackling the memory series (finally!).

Besides my studio life, I did more activities around London this year. I had the chance to visit Tate Britain and check out Rachel Whiteread’s show which was phenomenal. Loved every piece she had in there and as usual bought few books of her work and process. Hassan Hajjaj also had a solo show in Somerset House called “La Caravane”, and appreciated the films he produced and showcased there. Frieze took place in early October which was the first time for me to check it out. Not a huge fan of commercial fairs but definitely found few super interesting artists such as Timothy Taylor. We got invitation to attend the private preview/ auction of Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World, which was visually pleasing! Of course no bidding took place from my side but it was nice visiting London’s Sotheby’s. Our head of department - Jo Stockham - was showcasing some of her work in Chisenhale Art Place in East London which is a great gallery space/ studio/ dance spaces for members to join and use. I had lovely conversations with Jo regarding her work, and with other members of Chisenhale studios - certainly a place I would recommend to others. There was also Woolwich Print Fair that took place in November, located in South East London. An amazing fair with fantastic selection of prints - few of our graduated friends were showcasing their work there and we couldn’t feel any less proud. Something to aspire for next year! Last but not least, my fellow artist and friend Walid Al Wawi launched Sawt - a second project under Samt, which hosted Areej Kaoud as the curator and few other artists including my friend Shamma Al Ameri. Sawt had a talk hosted in Tate Modern as part of Tate Exchange, and then there was a show organized at Walid’s house! The house beautifully turned into a gallery space with works from various artists from the Middle East focusing on political issues presented in a serious or sarcastic format. It was great seeing Walid’s vision coming to life and more importantly, it was great meeting each other in London and find that space to discuss and laugh as well about our history.

I’ll end this long post here. Certainly a positive start of this second year. Looking forward to the next chapters of my London adventures :)


Portrait Of A Nation - Berlin Edition by Salama Nasib

Yes! From Abu Dhabi all the way to Berlin!

ADMAF, the foundation that organized and hosted "Portrait Of A Nation" show back in 2016 in Abu Dhabi, has transported the same show all the way to Berlin to be part of Berlin Art Week 2017. Over 20 participating artists including myself have been invited to inaugurate the opening of the show at Me Collectors Room, which is an exhibition space for private art collections of Olbricht Foundation + a cafe.

The exhibition showcases a variety of works by 50 Emirati artists from all different generations, under various themes including: Nation and Unity, Geography and Nature, Architecture and Urbanism, Portraiture and Identity, Religion and spirituality, Language and Calligraphy, and finally Tradition and Heritage. My installation piece titled with "Her Patterns" is part of the commissioned projects. A blog post on the piece can be found here

List of the artists who joined the trip includes: Ali Al Abdan, Sarah Al Agroobi, Sarah Al Ahbabi, Ahmed Al Areef Al Dhaheri, Ammar Al Attar, Khalid Al Banna, Ahmed Al Faresi, Eman Al Hashemi, Saeed Al Madani, Mohammad Al Qassab, Azza Al Qubaisi, Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi, Hind Bin Demaithan, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, layla Juma, Mohammed Kazem, Najat Makki, Mohammed Mandi, Abdul Rahim Salem, khalid Shafar, Obaid Suroor, Khalil Abdul Wahid, and myself, with Nasir Abdullah - the UAE Fine Art Society manager - being the special guest for this trip.

The 5 days trip consisted of being present at the gallery, engaging with the visitors and the media,  and visiting cultural spaces. I went two days ahead of the group in order to install my piece at the gallery with the amazing installation team (picture below), which gave me an extra time to discover more about the city and the area around me. Upon the arrival day of the artists we had a welcome dinner at the hotel which allowed us to introduce ourselves and get to know each other more. It was a very pleasant gathering indeed.

Her excellency Huda Al Khamis Kano inaugurated the preview of the exhibition for journalists from Berlin Art Week, as well as the private view opening on the next day alongside UAE Embassy to Germany. Her excellency gave a very sweet talk mentioning the strong bonds between the two unique art scenes, and how this show is setting a stepping stone for something of a huge potential and benefit. While going around the show and taking a photograph with each artist, she kept on advising and encouraging us to keep on producing, on creating, and on grabbing every possible opportunity that we stumble upon. I found that to be a very kind and sweet thing to do. Bless her efforts and continuous support to the art scene in the country (and abroad!). We were also invited to the UAE Embassy in Berlin for a lunch gathering, hosted by HE Ali Abdullah Al Ahmed's wife. It wasn't part of the itinerary but the embassy generously offered to host us upon our arrival so that was very kind of them. Berlin Art Fair was included in our schedule and pictures above show the fair.

As for the cultural visits, they included various historical buildings as well as museums and collector's spaces including: the German Parliament (Bundestag), Bahnhof Museum, Julia Stoschek Art Collection, and Boros Art Collection. I really enjoyed visiting the private collector's spaces and learning about the journey the owners had to go through in order to become the collectors they are now. Made me realize as well how much UAE is lacking on this end in the hope it progresses positively in the next coming years. As for the German Parliament, I would recommend visiting it indeed considering how much they invested in the display of art and commissioning artists to produce works specifically for the venue relating to the history of the nation. Some of these artists included Gerard Richter and Antony Gormley, and of course Sir Norman Foster as the architect behind the Dome of the Bundestag (which symbolizes the unification of Germany). 

Other things that took place and were part of the itinerary included hosting workshops at the exhibition venue by Azza Al Qubaisi and Sarah al Agroob, and a talk on Identity by Saeed Al Madani. Our farewell lunch took place at Arabesque Syrian restaurant which served amazing food to be honest with lovely hospitlity so definitely pay them a visit and support their business. We celebrated 

Of course aside from our busy itinerary and scheduled visits, we were gathering mostly in the evenings and having dinner together. We shared a lot of special moments together bonding, talking, and even discovering the city together. I am truly blessed to be amongst these amazing artists, and inshAllah more trips and projects to come in the future. 

Thank you ADMAF, once again, for this beautiful experience. 

The official press release can be found here. All image are courtesy of ADMAF, Ammar Al Attar, khalil Abdul Wahid, and myself.