Poetry and the desert: the Christo Award winner

Maram Kassab and Mariam Ayoub, two architects who graduated this year from Abu Dhabi University, have unveiled the structure that won the sixth edition of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award.

Qasa’ed (poems) is a pavilion inspired by Emirati poetry and the desert places that inspire so much of it. The oral emphasis on sitting on top of the dunes and sharing poetry is reflected in the form and sense of movement in this piece – so the wooden infrastructure has the fluidity and curves of the desert, while the exterior and sectional elements mimic Arabic calligraphy. “We wanted to bring the potential of the desert back,” Kassab says.

The Christo Award is administered by NYUAD in partnership with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, whose founder Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo reported that that year saw “exceptional and diverse” entries for the award. “Qasa’ed not only exemplifies the passion and innovation of local artists, but is also a visual representation of Emirati poetry, tradition and spirit,” she said. “With Qasa’ed, it is evident that contemporary Arab art is transforming with influences from local Emirati heritage, and it is joyful to witness the emergence of these exciting young talents.”

Qasa’ed will be on display NYU Abu Dhabi until 11 December; it then transfers to Umm Al Emarat Park from 12-22 December. It will then be returned to Kassab and Ayoub, who will install it at their alma mater, Abu Dhabi University.

The winning artists both receive $5,000 from Christo to further advance their careers.

Open to UAE-based students and graduates within the past six years, The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was established to encourage the creation of new artwork in the UAE, acting as a launch pad for visual artists across the Emirates and offering winners an insight into professional life as an artist from commission to exhibition.


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