Travelling to Dubai we had trepidations about what working in this city would be like, the most we’d ever done was stop over at the airport on the way to Europe. We’d read the travel stories, been warned about covering up (women covering shoulders and thighs), we’d been told women were oppressed, that there should be no physical contact in the streets and of course the rules about no alcohol. Considering we would be reuniting with artists from around the globe this was a daunting prospect. Alert but determined not to be alarmed, Zest’s team Jenny McCracken, Rudy Kistler and myself, set off to represent Australia at Dubai Canvas, a street art festival held at Jumeriah Beach Residence (JBR) 1 – 14 March 2016.
Our stay was nothing short of inspiring. Words I haven’t heard in a long while were declared – Phenomenal! Astonishing! Astounding! They applied to the festival, the city and the culture. JBR is an area where expats, locals and tourists mix, working in the streets and being showcased amongst the world’s best 3D street artists we were in prime position to converse with people from all over the world and an array of cultural backgrounds.
A woman in her burka smiled at me and I can’t recall ever seeing such beautiful eyes, men in their dishdashas (Islamic robe for men) approached us to speak about the art, we conversed and laughed with Indians, Arabs, Koreans, Europeans, Brits and Americans. Local students (Muslims and Catholics) were assigned to be our assistants which gave us more of an opportunity to find out about Dubai. We had no issues with our dress and no alcohol being served in public establishments was a refreshing change, especially seeing large groups of people socialising til the early hours of the morning and not being under the influence.
International artists included Kurt Wenner, the inventor of 3D pavement art; Dutch artist Leon Keer, from China Qi Xinghua, Cyborg artist Neil Harbison, Graff artists Fanakapan, Odeith and Shok1. Australian artist Jenny McCracken cemented position as one of the big players on the scene and Rudy Kistler proved himself to be one to look out for in the future.
Dubai Canvas demonstrates the beauty of public art and is why we continue to take art to the people, free events such as this breaks through cultural and socio-economic barriers. The Festival is inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohaher mmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform Dubai into an open-air art museum. Dubai is an exciting and forward thinking city, I’m looking forward to travelling there again.