Emirati Artwork Tours the U.S. to Open Cultural Dialogue

Emirati Artwork Tour
Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Maitha Al Mehairbi, Khalid Mezaina, Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba,Noor Al Suwaidi, Zeinab Al Hashemi

By Punch Correspondent Sarah Vining 

For the first time ever, contemporary art and artists of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will tour the United States, beginning in Washington, D.C.

“Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates” showcases all seven emirates of UAE, features more than 25 Emirati artists, and spans three generations of artists.

Emirati Artwork Tour
Artist Maitha Al Mehairbi speaking with Jan Du Plain

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure and humbling experience of attending the unveiling of Past Forward. Before I arrived at the Meridian International Center in Adams Morgan, it hadn’t hit me that I would have the privilege of witnessing a groundbreaking moment in time.

The Meridian International Center and the Embassy of the United Arab of Emirates partnered together for the exhibit to share the UAE’s compelling narrative and rich cultural heritage through art to help Americans find common ground, build lasting relationships, and foster respect.

Emirati Artwork Tour
Artists Zeinab Al Hashemi, Khalid Mezaina, Maitha Al Mehairbi

Meridian International Center President and CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday expressed the value of cultural diplomacy programs such as Past Forward. Holliday explained, “Through this exhibition, Americans can experience the UAE’s diverse heritage and build the foundation for greater understanding between our two countries.”

Attendees at Past Foward
Attendees at Past Forward
Attendees at Past Forward
Attendees at Past Forward

All seven Emirates are showcased in the collection. Three of the 25 featured artists were in attendance. One artist who spoke wanted everyone to know that the purpose of her art is to tell a story of her country.

Key themes in the artwork include past, present and future. Ambassador Al Otaiba said the artwork shows UAE’s rich history, culture and rapid development. Al Otaiba said, “Art has nourished our culture, informed our thinking, and allowed the UAE to become the modern, open and tolerant country that it is today.”

Several Emirati artists whose works are featured in Past Forward are currently visiting the U.S., conducting art workshops for students in D.C. area schools.

Noor Al Suwaidi
Noor Al Suwaidi

Over 50 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artwork in the Past Forward exhibition will be on display at the White-Meyer House through July 13, 2014. According to the Meridian International Center, “The exhibition will then go on a national tour through 2015, and will include stops in Texas, California and Washington.”

I was blown away by the beauty in the artwork and mesmerized by the subjects. I definitely recommend visiting the exhibit this summer.

For more information and how to visit the Past Forward exhibit in Washington, D.C., visit the website and follow the hashtag #PastForward.

Photo credit: Joyce Boghosian

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