Emirati designers have a nuanced approach to their heritage and contemporary living. It stems not only from having access to world culture, but most importantly, from a deep understanding of the many layers of their landscape, history, traditions and the Emirati way of life that make them so unique. Here, I present some of Emirati Design’s brightest stars and their seminal work that captured popular imagination, catapulting them, and Arab design onto the world stage.
Born in 1980 in Dubai, Shafar earned a degree in Fine Arts in Interior Design in 2005. He then specialised in Furniture & Objects design, first at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London, UK, then at the Centre for Fine Woodworking in Nelson, New Zealand. In 2011 Khalid opened his own studio in Dubai and in 2012 he inaugurated his first showcase space ‘KASA’. Shafar’s approach to design encompasses his personal expression of form, movement, emotion, and in particular, ‘the tale’ of objects.
Among his notable international collaborations are: an installation with the Brazilian Campana Brothers for Abu Dhabi Art 2010, and more recently, Silent Call, his award-winning collaboration with the haute lighting brand Lasvit that became the most discussed project from Dubai Design Week 2017.
The Little Palm collection (2011) cemented Shafar’s repute as one of the original contemporary Emirati designers. “For us in the UAE, the palm tree is a sacred species. It is an integral part of our heritage and culture,” he says. “My attachment to the palm tree is also through the many tales around this tree told to me by my father.” The stool is a tribute to the humble, omnipresent tree. A collection of small stools, one can instantly find a contemporary imagination of the Palm trunk and traditional hand woven palm leaf mats in the form. Since then, Shafar has presented various iterations of his beloved concept, most notably the Fallen Palm, a goat hair clad bench.
ZEINAB AL HASHEMI
A conceptual artist and designer specialising in site-specific installation and spatial art, Al Hashemi forges a connection between time honoured tradition and a distinguished contemporary vocabulary, relying on technical and creative knowledge collected through experience. An avid believer in the importance of public art, she is always keen to engage the public with her work. In the growing art and culture scene in the region, she sees it as her responsibility as an artist to draw awareness not only on art and design, but how the act of creation can inspire communities.
Last year, her installation, Hexalite, stole the show at Dubai Design Week with its Swarovski clad structures that mirrored, refracted and danced with the changing light to create a mesmerising interaction with its surroundings.
Set in Abu Dhabi’s oldest stone building, her installation Link between Worlds for the 2014 Qasr AlHosn festival underscored Zeinab’s creative vision. “Today we are making the history of our future,” she says the site specific work. “The preservation of this structure had a powerful impact on the inspiration to create a contemporary piece that explored tangible and intangible heritage.” Working with local craftsmen, she created a symposium of form and colour that trained the onlooker’s eyes to focus on the immaculate details of the building’s architecture and appreciate its historic volume.
An Emirati Architect, Almulla received his Bachelor’s in Architecture from Woodbury University in San Diego, USA in 2014. For his research based on geometric explorations, he was awarded the Grand Critique Faculty Choice Award and the Best Degree Project Award in Architectural Design. During his University years in San Diego, Abdalla was selected to speak and exhibit his architectural projects at the Next Fresno Master Plan 2013 exhibition, The San Diego Art walk and Dwell on Design.
While studying a semester in the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, Abdalla was involved in an in-depth analysis of Sustainable Energy Design program ‘Active Cities Active Buildings’. Abdalla participated in local exhibition Zero, curated by 1971 Design Centre and Dubai Design Days 2016 with his piece, Intrinsic Flux.
Abdalla perceives his design methodology as a sequence of theoretical and visual design explorations within a focused subject. His latest project, a gleaming golden pavilion for the Emirati fine jewellery brand Gafla, had audience transfixed. Inspired by the form of the jeweller’s latest collection, Baraag, Abdalla festooned the structure with shiny rhomboid panels that played with light and movement to deliver the most stunning selfies and social media feed. Now, if that is not a measure of universal success in today’s world, what is?