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What to look out for at RAK Fine Arts Festival 2017

At almost two metres tall, the Woman From The Mangroves is life-size and imposing.

Her body is made from fishing-net wire, traditionally used by the portside fishermen of Ras Al Khaimah, and her head is fashioned from part of an old mangrove tree taken, after it had already died, from the natural landscape along the emirate’s thriving coast.

It is one of 41 pieces of art, and 19 photographs, on show at the annual Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival, which opens on Friday and runs until Thursday.

The sculpture was created by Géraldine Chansard, a French artist who lives in RAK, as part of an environmental-awareness art project in 2014. She says the female figure embodies the spirit of the mangroves, a precious part of the UAE’s ecology and something she holds close to her heart.

“I took my inspiration from a small tree I saw during my exploratory trips inside the mangroves,” she says. “It took me several weeks to make the sculpture and I am happy that it continues to be exhibited.”

This is the second time Chansard has participated in the festival, after winning an award for another sculpture last year.

“Ras Al Khaimah is working hard to connect with art and culture through this festival and I am very proud to be taking part,” she says.

“I think it is especially important for my work to be shown in this emirate because it is made entirely from material sourced in Ras Al Khaimah. It is my intention for the piece to connect to the people and with the heritage, and to underline the many treasures to be found here.”

This year, the festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary. The art exhibition, which runs for a week, is located inside the city’s museum, at the site of a 19th century fort that was the residence of the Qawassim rulers until 1964.

As well as the art, there will be screenings of locally made films.

Fujairah-born Abdulla Al Kaabi, whose 2010 short film The Philosopher starred French actor Jean Reno, will be screening his latest project, Bullfighting in the UAE, which was made with the assistance of the first documentary film grant the festival has awarded.

Usman Oluwaseyi from Nigeria, another grant recipient, will also screen his documentary, about cycling in the UAE.

Among those showing their photographic work is Asma Al Ahmad, an Emirati from Ras Al Khaimah who is a recent graduate of the Salama Emerging Artist Fellowship. She is Exhibiting an image called Mountain Dunes II, which shows a pile of rock aggregate from a quarry.

“When I was a child, I used to take road trips along mountain trails, with my family, to my grandma’s house,” she says.

“The constant changes in the mountain silhouette and the road made me curious, so I am exploring that in this series. We use mountains as a resource, rather than a place, and the constant demolishing of the mountains impacts us all. Our mountains disappear and reappear as skyscrapers or islands in the sea.

“I am proud to be part of the growing art scene in RAK by exhibiting this, and I am also proud to put out this message.”

Natalia Lasso from Colombia is another young photographer. She is exhibiting an image of a monk in the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia last year.

“Every time I travel I take photos of people I meet and this boy was really special,” she says. “He was so young, almost like a child, but he had such a huge responsibility of being a monk and I was really moved by this. Also, I will always remember the light around him that day – it was beautiful.

“I have a strong motivation to learn about the way other people live and so I am proud that this piece is being exhibited.”

Suqrat bin Bisher, the director of RAK Fine Arts Festival, says his team has worked hard to get the community together to celebrate art, create opportunities for cultural exchange, and support the creative and artistic sectors of the emirate.

“These efforts have helped the festival become a rich platform where diverse artists can showcase their creations and accomplishments, exchange ideas, and inspire others,” he says.

After the festival, the Al Qasimi Foundation plans to open a small art gallery and studio space in its office building.

This project is part of an initiative by the Foundation to keep the community engaged in arts and culture throughout the year.

* RAK Fine Arts Festival runs until Thursday. For more info visit: www.rakfinearts.ae

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