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Afra Al Dhaheri

Cromwell Place

Dan Weill Photography

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, this year’s Abu Dhabi Art, which is organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), is set to be the first art fair in the world to collaborate with London’s new exhibition space and membership organisation Cromwell Place, with the event exhibiting work in the UK capital as part of its official programme.

In its first-ever exhibition abroad, Abu Dhabi Art will present commissioned works created in 2020 as part of the annual programme Beyond: Emerging Artists at Cromwell Place London from 2 -13 June. The three emerging artists included in the exhibition, who are all from the UAE, were supported in the development of their commissions in 2020 by curator Maya El-Khalil.

Beyond: Emerging Artists was curated by El-Khalil in 2020 and first shown at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi in November 2020. The commissions explore in diverse ways the theme of memory, with works by Hind Mezaina, Afra Al Dhaheri and Afra Al Suwaidi.

Exploring the theme of memory, the Beyond: Emerging Artists programme features artworks from Mezaina using multimedia archival materials, such as photography and archival film, to express elements of collective memory, masculinity, heritage, and the UAE. Mezaina often describes her work as a form of ‘visual archaeology’. As a starting point to explore identity formation, Al Dhaheri disorders hair strands, using her own reclaimed hair, which she collects once it has fallen out. Beyond exploring self-identity, her work draws on broader social associations and inhibitions related to female hair and its containment. Al Dhaheri uses mixed media to render nuances of memory and time.

Al Suwaidi, meanwhile, reconstitutes fragmented visual memories, rendering lines of trauma as embodied in domestic architectural forms. Al Suwaidi presents her work through a process of collage. In her work, time is caught in a fugitive state but also pushed further away, to elsewhere.

Abu Dhabi Art 2021 will return to Manarat Al Saadiyat in a physical format this year, taking place from 18 - 21 November 2021, with an opening on 17 November 2021. Following the success of last year’s virtual fair, Abu Dhabi Art will also continue to have a strong digital presence through a number of online initiatives this year.

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