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LAST CHANCE Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts
Curated by Dr Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès and shown in collaboration with Khatt Foundation, Warehouse421’s exhibition of nine specially commissioned artworks seeks to explore the origins of six of the most influential alphabets in the Middle East; Phoenician script (1200 BCE — 100 CE); Aramaic (750 BCE — 600 CE); Musnad (1000 BCE — 400 CE); Palmyrene (100 BCE — 300 CE); Nabatean (250 CE— 450 CE); and the Early Arabic scripts (6th C – 8th C CE).
The artists come from different disciplines and different nationalities – Nasser Al Salem, Sarah Al Aqroubi, Nadine Gansu, Gita Abi Hanna, Melia Maroun, Khaled Mazina, Rasha Al Dakkak, Hamza Al Amri and Zina Al Malki. They reflect and interpret texts and patterns that combine the concept of ‘contemporary travellers’ with the reference points of tradition; the works include 2D art, costume jewellery, fashion, textiles, furniture, product design, and ceramics.
This display of Middle Eastern history and culture through design and form “exemplifies Warehouse421’s mission to present narratives that highlight themes relevant to the UAE and the Middle East at large, as well as supporting design and production from regional creatives” according to the press release. For Faisal Al Hassan, Manager of Warehouse421, Nomadic Traces represents “a significant turning point in the evolution of Warehouse421 as a creative institution focused on local and regional storytelling”. He describes it as “our most extensive commission of research and development yet.”
The exhibition’s extensive research included genealogical mapping of Arab East’s alphabetic writing systems and thorough investigations of their history and influence on each other and the world’s alphabetic writing systems, their social, economic, political and cultural relevance. It also underlines the symbiotic relationship between form and function that has underpinned so much creativity throughout human history. Said Faisal Al Hassan: “Although Nomadic Traces highlights events that occurred centuries ago, its underlying themes still resonate strongly in the world we live in today. At a time of rising nationalism in many parts of the world, the exhibition provides a timely reminder that societies throughout history have benefited, sometimes in unexpected ways, from interacting with other people and cultures, rather than reflexively resisting outside influences.”