The Swing installation.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Al Noor Island, Sharjah’s picturesque eco-architectural destination, has unveiled a new art installation in its collection. Titled ‘The Swing’, the commissioned work by Emirati artist Azza Al Qubaisi, is inspired and born out of local culture and heritage.
Shaped by seven abstract pieces of rusted mild steel and stainless steel, with ghaf and palm tree leaves cut on them, ‘The Swing’ features immersive and sustainable art that reflects the past and the present of the UAE. Infusing the theme of ‘anxious waiting’ that Emirati women went through during the pearl harvest season in the past and the nation’s current prosperity, ‘The Swing’ provokes thought for visitors and art enthusiasts alike.
“‘The Swing’ reflects the pre-oil time during the pearl harvest season, when women used to stand on the shore waiting for their husbands’ return, suffering the anxiety of losing their spouses. Quite the contrary, nowadays a family would enjoy togetherness on this extended swing, feeling safe, due to the prosperity and development of Sharjah and the UAE”, says Al Qubaisi.
“New and old materials were used to create the installation, representing the past and present. People can see palm and ghaf tree-inspired patterns with an abstract metal framework of palm branches, which reflects the theme,” she said. Next to mild steel that develops a rusted patina over time, the artist has also placed stainless steel, allowing surrounding trees and bushes to reflect light on the installation during day.
Once the sun sets, ‘The Swing’ is illuminated by lights embedded in the surrounding landscape, and the indirectly lit walkways leading to the piece invites visitors to discover this secretly hidden getaway on the island. With the addition of ‘The Swing’ adding to the eight unique and exclusive art sculptures on the island, Al Qubaisi also joins the list of renowned global artists who have marked their artistic presence on it.
The art installation, overlooking Khalid lagoon on the west shore of the island, has been created in a collaboration with Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah. Dr Nina Heydemann, director of Maraya Art Centre and 1971 — Design Space, said “with the purpose of supporting artists from the UAE and abroad, it is our great privilege to extend our public art initiatives to Al Noor Island, in which Azza Al Qubaisi has created a new site-specific piece offering contemplative moments for the visitors of the island.
“She is also the first Emirati artist having contributed to the Island’s bespoke art installations, touching upon themes related to the local history and heritage.” Al Qubaisi is a jewellery artist, sculptor and product designer and is most often referred to as the UAE’s first Emirati jewellery artist. She enjoys exploring and experimenting with metal and natural materials. She is second to none when it comes to investigating, sharing and cultivating a vision for the past, present and future. There is a popular saying that death will not visit a man, even at the time of a famine, if he has a ghaf, a goat and a camel, since the three together will sustain him even in the most trying conditions.
The valuable ghaf is the evergreen tree of the desert. In 2008, it was declared the national tree of the UAE, because of its great cultural and traditional significance. It is a drought-tolerant tree, able to withstand the harsh desert environment, yet still remain green. It can be found on low sand dunes and its presence is an indicator there is water underground. The ghaf can live up to 120 years. Date palm trees are prized for their multiple uses, not just as a source for the date fruit. Their trunks have been used as both support for tents and as the framework for more elaborate dwellings, when walls and floors are created using woven palm tree leaf strips.
Traditionally, roofs were created either by using woven leaves or by binding whole palm branches with ropes created by trimmed stalks from the trees. Date palm leaves can be used to make mats, baskets and fans. Branches of palm trees have even been used as part of small fishing boats. The trees and their fruit, the date, also are a source of various foodstuff, such as syrup, which is extracted from the trunk of the date palm tree and coffee, made from grinding its seeds. The seeds have also been used to create soap and kohl (eye liner). The oldest discovered date seeds in the Emirates were on Delma Island in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Found in 1998, the seed dates back to 5110 BCE and the second oldest goes back to 4670 BCE, according to radiocarbon tests. Date palm trees and their fruit were revered in ancient cultures; however, it gained the highest regard and recognition in Arab Islamic culture.
Spanning an area of 45,470 square metres, Al Noor Island from Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), blends art and culture with nature. The island, open since 2015, is also well-known for its picturesque frames and art sculptures that tell stories of human creativity. A non-profit art space and cultural platform located at Al Qasba, Sharjah, Maraya Art Centre is also an initiative by Shurooq. Its purpose is to promote young artists from both the Arab region and internationally. 1971 — Design Space is Maraya Art Centre’s non-profit design gallery located on Flag Island. It is a multi-purpose space for contemporary design.
The initiative expresses our tremendous pride and gratitude to all the inspiring, dedicated, and committed Emirati women, says official
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