Quoz Arts Fest – described as “the only festival in Dubai where art, food, live music, performance and educational activations converge” – has now been running annually since 2012, usually during the last weekend of January. This year’s tenth QAF takes over Alserkal Avenue on 28 and 29 January 2023 with a characteristically diverse line-up of music, art, contemporary dance and performing arts plus workshops, wellness and food trucks.
It’s the mix you’d expect, only more of it: we’re promised more than 200 ‘activations’ (branding-speak for stuff of some sort happening that you can experience or take part in). And this year, for the first time, the extra content is reflected in the introduction of an entrance fee.
It’s a pretty modest charge – AED 50 for the whole weekend – and students under-18s, kids under 5, and seniors over 60 all get in free. All ticket proceeds will go towards the festival programme rather than Alserkal’s coffers, so local and regional talent will benefit.
There’s a theme this time: ‘Shift Away’. Visitors will be invited to set aside their preconceptions on entering the festival’s three imagined worlds with specific installations, activities, and more – Shift to Nature (“visitors will be challenged on their perception of scale and implored to surrender to the vastness of nature”) Shift to Cyborg (“explore the dizzying dimensions of the digital universe”; and Shift to Childhood (“unleash the inner child”), visitors can unleash their inner child, play, and believe in magic again. Each world will be brought to life with various installations, immersive activities, and more.
Art-wise, most of the Avenue’s galleries will be midway through their first shows of 2023. A collaboration with Zayed University’s CACI will see the college’s first alumni exhibition since Covid-19, curated by Walter Willems. MUTEK has a data-driven interactive installation on climate change by Amir B Ash. And Concrete, Alserkal Avenue’s own exhibitions and events space, hosts As Water Falls, a characteristically thought-provoking interactive experience by Montreal-based digital art studio Iregular (who were responsible for an impressive Expo 2020 installation designed to highlight our impotence in a digital world: disorienting stuff).
Elsewhere it’s the music that grabs the attention. Headlining on the stage in The Yard for 28 January is Saint Levant (aka Marwan Abdelhamid, but who’s counting). A breakout star from the Arab diaspora, the son of a French/Algerian mother and a Palestinian/Serbian father, born in Jerusalem and now based in Los Angeles, he’s known for combining French, Arabic and English in his music – check out this recent release.
The following day sees the Syrian-born Amman-based producer/songwriter/singer/rapper Bu Kolthoum take the stage. His name references two Arabic icons – singer Um Kolthoum and the pre-Islamic Arab warrior poet Bin Kulthoum – and he combines Arab samples and boom bap hardbody beats with conscious lyrics and poetry (he claims to have pioneered ‘Sufi hop’). He’s released four albums, taking the credits for writing, producing and engineering on just about every track. Here’s a recent goodie.
Also scheduled: top Dubai hip-hop DJ Big Hass, new-to-us Bornean-Australian rapper and poet Omar Musa, cool funky sets from DJ Patchoulee, and laidback West Coast rock from homegrown band The Tasty Biscuits.
And some of the UAE’s emerging music talent will be showcased in Quoz Encore, a collaboration between Quoz Arts Fest and The Fridge. Seven acts, selected following an open call, will be performing during the festival weekend – Lama, Stefan Alm, Jiire Smith, Ramzinho, Kinda, and a couple of magpie recommendations Seaside Feels and A^2.
Participation from the wider Al Quoz community includes The Courtyard, Aisha Alabbar, Trezora, Cabinet of Curiosity, Antique Boutique x Book Club, Raw Coffee Company, Woo-hoo, and more. There will also be fitness and wellness classes from Shimis, Joint Space, and DNA; movies from Cinema Akil and Reel Palestine; the Market of Misfits from Kave; and a feast of a food at the Good Vibes Market.
And it’s the second Short+Sweet weekend at the Junction, where we’re told tickets for the ten-minute-play festival (normally AED 70) will be discounted by the QAF entry fee.
You can prebook QAF tickets for the weekend on Platinumlist. Tickets for under-18s and over-60s are free with registration.