Festival time in RAK

Ras Al Khaimah Art, the new incarnation of the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Art Festival, opens to the public at 9pm on Friday 2 February. As ever, it’s at the Al Jazeera Al Hamra Heritage Village, which has increasingly been developed with houses holding exhibition and meeting spaces for the festival.

Curated by the award-winning Swiss photographer and artistic director Alfio Tommasini (right), the Festival carries the theme ‘In Motion’. Tommasini’s curatorial statement speaks of the 2024 Festival seamlessly integrating “motion, culture, and perception”; the essence is a “dynamic narrative” based on moving through Al Jazeera Al Hamra’s streets and alleyways to encounter art and installations.

“’In Motion’ challenges the concept of a new “’normal’”, says Tommasini. “From generative AI and NFTs to space journeys and environmental movements, our Festival celebrates and critiques the power of motion and change, bringing together a variety of artforms whilst stimulating dialogue between artists, authors, creatives and the community.”

Elsewhere he writes: “Amidst this evolving scene, movement becomes an opportunity to discover new cultures, reconnect with forgotten histories, and celebrate uniqueness. This Festival unveils more than art – it reveals a story flourishing in this remarkable place, a testament to our human journey.”

That is symbolised by Ephemeral Whispers (above), a kinetic art installation on the tower of Al Jazeera Al Hamra Fort; this speaks of unity, but also suggests the dynamic nature of human interaction. It’s a fabric-based work that uses traditional and contemporary materials from several cultures, suspended like tapestries and serving as a visual metaphor for the marketplaces that throughout history have provided a rich heritage of human experience.

This is also echoed in The Souq, an international contemporary art exhibition tat aims to explore the human experience – “our interactions, movements, and existence on Earth … Delving into gender, culture, and spirituality, it aims to transport visitors on a profound ‘Human Condition’ tour, encapsulating the highs and lows of our earthly journey”.

The main exhibitions are in the houses of Al Jazeera Al Hamra, the bayts. There are nine housing the open call exhibits – photography, 2D art and sculptures from around three dozen artists. In addition, seven of the bayts will be showing special exhibitions – one of which is for the Festival’s artist in residence, the Chilean-born multimedia artist Indira Urrutia Zuniga.

The US Mission to the UAE is taking another of the houses for guest artist Kim Carolino, whose exhibition Possible Forms is described as “a meditation on the expansion and contraction of time while moving forward through a linear construction of reality”. The Foundation of the Croatian collector and psilanthropist Marinko Sudac has two bayts, one for the 3D paintings of Radomir Damnjanovic Damnjan and the other for the “arte programmata” of Italian artists Lucia di Luciano and Giovanni Pizzo.

Bayt 5 has the interesting sounding Pearls of Motion, an AR exhibition by W3rlds Metaverse that “weaves a narrative of movement, seamlessly blending the rich heritage of the region with contemporary digital art”. And Daniel Rode’s installation in Bay 6, for the German Embassy and Goethe Institut, highlights the beauty of the present in his exhibition Erstmal bin ich hier (For Now I am Here); concealing letters in a foreign language, Rode’s work creates a deliberate barrier between it and the viewer that the artist sees as a fertile field for interpretation around “the profound beauty of the ordinary”.

As well the curated exhibitions, the 12th edition of the festival will also host a variety of workshops, from wire knitting and resin ocean art to photography and ceramics; Live Performance Saturdays with music and stand-up comedy; a programme of six talks on culture, innovation, and sustainability subjects; and Friday Film Nights featuring documentary and fiction shorts.

The RAK Art Festival has always been distinguished by its themed weekends with hands-on activities, workshops and performances – a Pet-Friendly Weekend on 9-11 February, the Family & Community Weekend on 16-18 February, and the Cultural Weekend for traditional activities and crafts on 23-25 February.

There’s full information on the Ras Al Khaimah Festival website, and you can download a PDF summary of the Festival here. The festival site is free to enter and is open 10am to 11.30pm from 2 – 29 February.

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