HCP has three new exhibitions that will be featured throughout the months of March and April as part of the 2014 FotoFest Biennial. All three exhibitions are curated by Madeline Yale, an independent curator and writer based in Dubai and London who has curated over 30 exhibitions on photography and related media and is a lecturer on photographs for Sotheby's Institute of Art London, American University in Sharjah, and Rice University.Today in the United Arab Emirates, public and private realms are recurrently defined and negotiated, its customs relatively inaccessible to non-nationals. In Ajyal: Generations artist Maitha Bin Demithan reveals the cloistered space of UAE’s traditions, focusing on its national dress, symbols and iconography. While large in scale, her portraits set on black backdrops are intimate and theatrical. In these isolated contexts, objects such as a burqa, thoab and bisht are ordained as precious specimens of heritage.The UAE’s traditions are in a heightened period of flux as transnational exchange is rapidly altering the nation’s identity. A wealthy, young country founded in 1971 following the dissolution of the Trucial States, the UAE was once comprised of semi-nomadic traders. Subsequent to the discovery of oil, the UAE has grown from 70,000 inhabitants in the 1950s to more than 8 million today.Eighty-nine percent of the population consists of migrant non-nationals and it has one of the highest net migration rates in the world.While Bin Demithan’s images do not portray national landmarks attesting to this growth such as the Burj Khalifa or Palm Jumeirah, their existence likewise reflects a remarkable period of regional development, evidenced by the human condition to preserve the familiar during heightened change.Bin Demithan notes, “all around me [the UAE] is becoming Westernized. Many Emiratis choose to wear Western dress over traditional garments… I want to preserve some of the traditional textiles and embroidery.”Maitha Bin Demithan’s presentation of eroding traditions is in the form of multiple scans stitched together, as if by hand. This has a fragmented, patchwork appearance – perhaps a metaphor for the heterogeneous region’s reconstruction of identity. Bin Demithan’s compositions reveal a more subjective, emotional language found within the passage of cultural heritage.“My overriding concern is to see the relationships that form the stories which such known rituals tell.” This particular historicity alludes to an important driver in the transmission of cultural identity: storytelling.
- Madeline Yale Preston, curatorPictured:Maitha Bin Demithan (Dubai, UAE)
Umy Elnoomi, 2012
Inkjet print, Scanography
48 x 40 inches
Courtesy of the artist