Dubai Design Week, a celebration of emerging talents

Sunday 13/11/2016
At the Algierian pavilion curated by Hellal Zoubir, with its theme of Tab tab fi d’zairwatam (Drumming from Algiers to Tamanrasset), visitors take part in an impromptu percussion session. (AP)

Dubai - Established brands as well as emerging regional and international designers took centre stage in Dubai in a celebration of cutting-edge design and ideas. Dubai Design Week, organised by Dubai Design District (D3), amounted to an “open museum” of design, attracting a re­cord number of visitors.
“With more than 150 events across the city, the second Dubai Design Week had almost doubled in size, attracting 40,000 visitors, a 75% increase compared to last year,” said Cyril Zammit, director of the late-October event.
Downtown Design, a trade show for professionals, also doubled its registrations to 12,500 visitors.
Downtown Design Fair Director Rue Kothari said the strategy was to provide a high-quality experience by combining local, regional and in­ternational brands presenting top-quality, original products from fur­niture and lighting to textiles and accessories.
Abwab, Arabic for “doors”, an exhibition exploring design narra­tives within the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia featured pa­vilions from Algeria, Bahrain, India, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and the United Arab Emirates revolv­ing around the theme The Human Senses.
Curated by Algerian artist Hellal Zoubir, the Algiers pavilion com­bined the skills of Mourad Krinah, Walid Bouchouchi and Souad Delmi Bouras in graphics and interiors.
The interactive experience con­sisted of graphic surfaces display­ing representations of sounds cre­ated through an arrangement of uniquely designed percussion in­struments that compose a vibrant audio landscape. Users became musicians, performing improvised beats as a soundtrack guided audi­ences through a sensory experi­ence.
Bahrain presented collaborative works by designers Maitham al- Mubarak and Othman Khunji aimed at renewing the dormant craft of pottery by generating a customisa­tion process that was very interac­tive.
The Indian pavilion drew large crowds with its theme Memory Bar, a collaboration of New Delhi-based design duo Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra. Visitors could write a mem­ory on paper, shred it and watch it made into a colourful tile, which would be displayed on the pavilion wall and become part of a travelling exhibition
The Iraqi pavilion, titled Excava­tions, was a collaborative endeavour between Eindhoven-based design­er Hozan Zangana and UAE-based architect and designer Rand Abdul Jabbar and looked at the country as an amalgamation of overlapping civilisations, identities, languages and traditions. The pavilion show­cased an exploration of the multi­layered histories embedded within a shared geography, uncovering, drawing inspiration from and rein­terpreting its artefacts.
Under the label Mass Imperfec­tions, the Palestinian pavilion exposed craft industry from the Bethlehem region centred on its centuries-old olive wood carving tradition. The pivot of the pavilion was a fabricated form of olive wood elements that were small with re­spect to the structure they com­posed.
Curators Elias Anastas and Yousef Anastas, French-Palestinian broth­ers who are both architects and de­signers, explored the plight of olive wood carvers who are victims of a globalised world and mass tourism industry in which their skills are overlooked.
The UAE pavilion, called Afaaq Al Mustaqbal, drew inspiration from the cafeteria to highlight the many layers of this cultural phenomenon. Cafeterias are ubiquitous and have become an integral element of the Emirati cultural experience. The pavilion combined the talents of designers Salem al-Mansoori, Tarik Zaharna and Ric Hernandez and was curated by Salem al-Qassimi and Maryam al-Qassimi of Fikra De­sign Studio.
The Dubai Design Week’s Iconic City exhibition, Cairo NOW! City Incomplete, curated by Cairo-based architect Mohamed Elshahed, gath­ered for the first time under one roof more than 65 Egyptian archi­tects, designers, entrepreneurs and graphic artists, presenting a grass-roots account of the city’s design landscape.
Cairo’s young designers take the city as their muse and as the source of their creativity. Despite the lack of a market place or an infrastruc­ture supporting creative industries, they turn the city’s trash into new products and revive fading tradi­tions with a contemporary edge.
“The aim was to include differ­ent perspectives and viewpoints and offer opportunities for new, especially young, designers who are creating original and authentic work which reflected the Egyptian reality,” Elshahed said.
The city’s designers reflect on the condition of incompletion in their creations and, in Elshahed’s view, “they fill in the gaps”.
“The potential is very high in Egypt and fresh and original work is being created but there is lack of support from the government and the corporate sector,” said Elshahed.
The exhibition, whose title was inspired by the infamous visual im­pression of Cairo’s red brick hous­ing stock in varying stages of com­pletion, drew visitors who admired innovations in the fields of product, furniture, graphic and typeface de­sign as well as architecture.
Elshahed said: “The way forward for these young designers is to look for international exposure, which may eventually translate into break­throughs and patronage at home.”