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Enriching outreach
by Muhammad Yusuf October 09, 2014
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The 12 winning artists of Create & Inspire 2014, hosted by the Crossway Foundation, UK, who travelled to Brazil on a two-week creative journey of a lifetime in September (Time Out, Oct. 2) are back home in the UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, respectively, counting or measuring their (artistic) blessings. 

The winners were Ghassan Alharbi, Mansour Albadran, Mawadah Muhtasib (Saudi Arabia); Maryam Al-Essa, Emelina Soares, Ayaz Rauf (Qatar); Nasser Al Zayani, Tulip Hazbar, Hala Makhlouf (UAE) and Hayley Konadu, Alisha McCarthy and Faraz Fahd Khan (UK).

In Brazil, the team explored the country’s vibrant landscape and creative scene by collaborating with local arts and social organisations in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, Inhotim, Belo Horizonte, Serra do Cipó, Cachoeira and Salvador da Bahia.

The journey began in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro where the young artists worked with Gui Mohallem, a Brazilian artist of Lebanese origin, to learn about the basic principles of photography without a camera and with Brazilian art collective, Ambientes Infláveis, exploring the use of inflatable structures in an urban environment.

After Rio de Janeiro, they travelled to Ouro Preto, a former colonial mining town and a Unesco World Heritage Site, to take in its outstanding baroque architecture. They then spent two days exploring Inhotim, a contemporary art wonderland set amid 5,000 acres of botanical gardens.

Then it was onwards to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil’s first colonial capital. There they visited the Candeal community where they took part in a percussion workshop at the Pracatum Music School, explored Salvador’s historic centre, Pelourinho, trekked in Serra do Cipo National Park and went to the riverside town of Cachoeira to learn the basics of capoeira (Brazilian martial art).

For the final part of the journey, they returned to São Paulo where they reviewed their two weeks in Brazil and how their creative process had changed. Over the course of two days, the whole team discussed what they had learnt and each winner was asked to present a creative project they had been working on throughout the trip.

The trip resulted in some 7,500 photographs documenting the locations and activities as well as eight short film clips that were released in ‘real time’ during the Journey to Brazil.

Further, a 5-minute film outlining the entire trip was produced. An exhibition of the artwork produced as a result of the trip is planned for November 2015 in the Gulf.

Further (cultural) adventures included throwing some dance shapes outside Galeria Adriana Varejão, Inhotim; collecting things (flower petals) at Inhotim; exploring Belo Horizonte market at Mercado Central, Belo Horizonte; visiting the amusement park at the Lagoa da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte; taking in the sights of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi at the Lagoa da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte; a visit to Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte and trying acarajé in Salvador de Bahia (acarajé is a dish made from peeled black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê or palm oil).

Nasser Al Zayani, who represented the UAE and is a student at the American University of Sharjah, said that “I engage drawing as a process of discovery; it is an act that transcends mere observation to become a record of what I see, leaving traces of memories that recount my experiences.

“Engaging in this mode of operation helps uncover what was previously hidden. The sketchbooks I own showcase a variety of drawings and collected objects that document my travels and everyday musings.

“Moreover, what I have noticed recently is the contrast between the conditions of the sketchbooks from start to finish. What begins as a pristine, blank canvas becomes a weathered artifact that is filled with lines, collages, materials, stories, and colours.

“What was once white is now filled with page after page of beautiful colours. The colours come from the red tile roof of Florence Cathedral, and they come from the vibrant blue water bottle labels from Muscat.

“Colours come from the whimsical storytelling of a waiter at

Hashem’s falafel in downtown Amman, and the coffee stains from a cappuccino in Venice. I buy my sketchbooks for next to nothing, but when they are filled, they become the most treasured objects I own”.

He said his journey to Brazil allowed his travels to colour him. “The trip to Brazil gave me an opportunity to showcase what I brought to Brazil in terms of a Middle Eastern perspective of inquiry, as well as the traces that Brazil left on me.

“For the first time, I felt that my sketchbook not only reflected my own experiences, but those of others through their interaction with me. I have always said that my art deals with observation, and that it is directly influenced by my interactions with a particular environment.

“This happens through my experiences with architecture, art, and people. This trip drastically changed the way my sketchbooks reflect my interactions with people, and that makes them more precious than ever before”.

Tulip Hazbar, who also represented the UAE on the trip, is a freelance designer and illustrator said that “Create & Inspire is a platform to … run more studies and draw conclusions on how colours can be used to simulate a visual experience … the trip to Brazil was an eye-opener to a culture I had met through music, art and food. Yes, food.

“Brazil is directly associated with an abundance of colour and great music and I loved to be around such environment. It was a great experience that has enhanced my body of work”.

Hala Makhlouf, from the UAE, who also went to Brazil, is a Visual Artist and Junior Art Director at Leo Burnett, Dubai.

She said that “getting the chance to experience something that ignited not only inspiration, but a chance to learn from talented people, both the winners and experts combined, was brilliant”.

Of his time in Brazil, Ghassan Alharbi from Saudi Arabia said: “Being part of Create & Inspire 2014 was a life-changing experience in every sense of the word. What I found particularly interesting, as somebody without formal art education, was to see first-hand how all the artists involved in the project see and create differently because of our different artistic practices. It was fascinating listening to everyone’s point of view”.

Create & Inspire is a popular art competition that identifies talented young artists in the UK and the Gulf. The initiative by the Crossway Foundation, is run in partnership with Art Jameel and Qatar Museums and supported by Saudi Aramco, the British Council and Etihad Airways.

The foundation, besides delivering arts and education initiatives, focuses on delivering international creative journeys for young people, as well as running a public programme that is free and open to all (

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