‘Union of Artists’ is Dubai’s newest large-scale public art installation by five artists including Asma Belhamar, an Emirati interdisciplinary artist and assistant professor at Zayed University, whose work explores the phenomena of 'mega structure' in the UAE. 

Permanently situated at Al Hudaiba Park, overlooking the Etihad Museum and Union House, it is part of the initiative to turn Dubai into a global canvas for art and aligns with the cultural vision to establish the emirate’s position as the centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent.

Talking to Khaleejesque, Asma Belhamar explained the collective vision of the artists for the project. “The cultural inspirations for this masterpiece are deeply rooted in the history and identity of the UAE. Drawing inspiration from the Etihad Museum and the country's unity story, our sculpture symbolizes the strength of collective effort and collaboration,” she says. 

The striking art piece is made of seven pillars that are inspired by the construction of the Areesh, a traditional and adaptable Emirati-style of architecture constructed with woven palm leaves, that are weaved more closely during winter to keep the cold out and allow more space in the summers for ventilation. 

For these artists Areesh embodies collective effort, collaboration, and cohesion, mirroring the essence of UAE's society. The integration of palm branches and ropes symbolizes unity and mutual support, woven into the intricate fabric of Emirati society.

Asma passionately gave an insight into the cultural inspirations and the profound symbolism embedded in this masterpiece. “The intertwining forms and dynamic composition represent the diverse generational perspectives that have contributed to the nation's progress and development. Through its profound symbolism, the artwork serves as a visual testament to the values of teamwork, cooperation, and solidarity.” 

Following an open call of proposals for public artwork themed under unity, Afra Al Dhaheri, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Asma Belhamar, and Khalid Albanna were the UAE-based artists shortlisted from the 250 applications. These five challenged the single artist call and instead asked to be ‘united’ and collaborate on the commission. 

Art in an open space belongs to the public and the artist has the added responsibility of creating a piece that not only pleases the eye but also creates interest, curiosity, dialogue and debate. “Working on a sculpture for a public space like the Al Hudaiba garden presents a unique set of considerations, including scale, durability, and interaction with the surrounding environment,” Asma emphasized. 

Given their unique backgrounds and aesthetic styles, they have worked on separate elements of the sculpture and the end result is a monumental piece of art that assimilates into the landscape and enhances its setting. The scale and height of the work is drawn from Khaled Albanna’s initial proposal of a boat’s sail; the use of marble effect speaks to Afra Al Dhaheri’s practice; the pattern on the surface of the pillars is in Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s signature style; and the visual language is a combination of the architectural elements of Asma Belhamar’s practice and Shaikha Al Mazrou’s exploration of tension and the interplay between form and content. 

Bringing in their own artistic language, they have created a mesmerizing piece. “The artistic and collaborative process behind the design was incredibly rewarding. We began by brainstorming ideas and concepts that resonated with the theme of unity and the UAE's identity. Through open dialogue and creative exchanges, we developed a cohesive vision for the sculpture that integrated each artist's unique perspective and artistic style. This collaborative approach allowed us to leverage our collective strengths and create a visually compelling artwork that speaks to the essence of unity,” Asma expressed. 

When asked about why she took up the challenge to be part of this group sculpture, she shares, “Becoming part of the collaborative artwork unveiled at the Al Hudaiba public garden was a natural progression for me. When approached by Afra Aldhaheri and the other artists involved, I was drawn to the project's vision of celebrating unity and collaboration, which aligns closely with my own artistic values. Being part of this group sculpture allowed me to contribute to a meaningful public artwork that embodies the spirit of teamwork and cohesion.”

Shedding light on her approach to the design, Asma immersed herself in research and exploration on the topic. “Whether it's through sketching, experimenting with materials, or engaging in dialogue with other artists, I approach each project with a spirit of curiosity and inquiry. By allowing myself the freedom to explore different ideas and techniques, I'm able to uncover new insights and perspectives that inform the direction of my work,” says Asma. 

Despite their diverse artistic practices, experiences and expertise, the artists seamlessly crafted an engaging installation that spark’s the community’s imagination and encourages dialogue inspired by the unity of the seven emirates. Focused on the importance of collaboration they had a shared goal of showcasing the power of art, interconnectedness, and unity. 

– Saira Malik

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