The Saffron Souk ladies never need an excuse to get lost in Dubai’s Al Fahidi Historical Neighourhood (or the Bastakiya district as we have come to coin it), but lets face it, the place comes alive when Dubai Culture‘s Art Fair ‘Sikka’ pops up for 10 days every year. The streets of old Dubai become a cultural hot spot celebrating all that local talent we love and Sikka 2014 was no exception.
We popped down to this little Dubai gem mid-week and mid-afternoon; admittedly not the most social time to visit, but to be honest we quite like having the place our ourselves! The crazy rabbit-warren pedestrian alleyway’s (or ‘Sikka’s’ as they are known locally) meant that we missed a lot of the artists installations, but for us that is the beauty of the neighbourhood as an exhibition space – you feel like you are on a true adventure and try your hardest to hunt out the next great find. Frustrating? Definitely not, we loved looping back on our foot steps, discovering things from different angles and stumbling across courtyards and the sometimes (but not always!) quiet chit chat of fellow explorers nattering away behind common walls.
Our only regret is that we didn’t make another trip back during the evening to experience the free live music and film screenings on offer – the programmed activities looked amazing. We have a sneaky hunch that the place really comes into its own in the evenings. But with all the treats on offer during Art Dubai week, there are only so many places a couple of Saffron Souk ladies can be at any given time…
2. One of the pedestrianised alleyways or ‘Sikkas’ as they are known locally, that tie the Al Fahidi Historical District together
3 – 11. We loved this little cluster of rooms around a central courtyard. It predominantly featured the work of Fatma Lootah as well as some walls featuring contributions from the public, but we believe that colourful bunch of bubbles (7.) were kindly brought to us by Humaid Mansoor.
12. We could have stayed in this Saffron Souk for hours… listening to stories, while drinking karak.
‘Down North’ Majlis Stories, is a mixed media and audio master piece by Margo Tummel and Nina Hein. It maps Dubai through stories told by the people who live in this city and give it its multinational character. It was the audio that captured our attention; interweaving casual stories being told by residents of all backgrounds. Many of them being familiar to the Saffron Souk ladies (especially the stories of how fast it used to be to get from A to B a few years ago – a common conversation amongst the two of us having arrived in the UAE in 1999!)
13. – 16. ‘The Gamcha Project’ by Elise Vazelakis.
We were lucky enough to meet Elise Vazelakis the talented artist behind ‘The Gamcha Project’ at the recent Street Art Night Dubai. Elise’s weaving installation incorporates gamchas (head scarves) and photographs of the Dubai labour force. Her hope is that the viewer of these textile pieces will recognise these hard working men as the "fabric" of the Dubai landscape.
17. House No. 40, my goodness were you tricky to find!
18. – 22. If you didn’t already know we have a bit of a soft spot for Reem Saeed’s photography.
Reem Saeed can take an amazing snap but it is her subject matter that really tutes our flute (her work was featured in the Sharjah Art Foundations exhibition "Vantage Point Sharjah 2013"). Reem is busy running around the UAE, seeking out all those hard to find places that when presented in their everyday life, show the true character of the country. We are waiting for that book to be released…. can’t wait!
23. – 28. The Sikka 2014 set up was perfect. Not too over the top, bot to refined – just perfectly natural allowing us pretend it was an organic installation rather than a curated project. Thanks!
By the way a big well done to the artists showcased. We know many of you leave this exhibition out of pocket so thank you for entertaining us. We are already looking forward to 2015….