EAST-EAST: UAE meets Japan Vol 2

Curator’s biography

‘East-East: UAE meets Japan, Vol 2’ is curator Sophie Mayuko Arni’s first curatorial project and comes as culmination of her studies on cultural hybridity and Japanese Art History at NYU Abu Dhabi.

SOPHIE MAYUKO ARNI (b. 1995, Geneva)

Sophie Mayuko Arni is a Swiss-Japanese curator and art critic, who spent her childhood following her father’s diplomatic career between the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. She believes in breaking the geographical, conceptual and institutional boundaries of Contemporary Art. She is currently in her final year of undergraduate study of Art & Art History at NYU Abu Dhabi, with professional experience at Sotheby’s (London) and Christie’s (New York City) in their Middle Eastern and Indian Contemporary Art department respectively. In 2015 she founded Global Art Daily (www.globalartdaily.com), an online platform of artist interviews, exhibition reviews and opinion pieces covering the art scenes of Abu Dhabi, New York City, Buenos Aires, London, and Tokyo. East-East: UAE meets Japan is her first attempt at curating and comes as culmination of her studies on cultural hybridity and Japanese Art History at NYU Abu Dhabi.


Artists Selected


AHMED ALANZI (b. 1984, Abu Dhabi)

Ahmed Alanzi is a fashion designer, artist, curator and cultural critic with a special focus on sustainability and eco-design. His work deals with the perception of ceremonial wear in the Gulf region. He has been involved in the thriving Dubai fashion industry and Abu Dhabi’s art scene, receiving in 2014, a Cultural Fellowship from Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF). In 2015, he co-curated “The Secret Life of Date Palms”, an exhibition organized by Brownbook, as well as acted as Cultural Ambassador at the UAE Pavilion at EXPO Milan (2015). He has been invited to moderate a number of talks about the Emirati creative industry, including the DiA (Dialogue in Architecture) organized by The Tryptic Note in Dubai (2015), and the Riwaq Al Fikr as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival organized by ADMAF (2016). He studied Environmental Science and Marine Biology at Auckland University of Technology. He defines himself as a ‘Contemporary Bedouin’.

Ahmed Al Anzi is a talented fashion designer, taking an innovative approach to traditional Emirati garments. He is also always on the lookout for innovating the set Emirati national dress for men and women, especially the bisht, the iconic garment reserved for men’s ceremonial wear. His studies on re-shaping the bisht into a rounded form made headlines in Sharjah’s ‘Defashstruction’ exhibition in 2015. For East- East, Ahmed will create a fusion of the bisht and the men kimono. He will make a statement about the capacity to innovate traditional dress to make them relevant in our contemporary world as well as highlight the similarities between the Emirati and Japanese ceremonial wear and practices.


AL ANOOD AL OBAIDLY (b. 1990, Abu Dhabi)

Anood Al Obaidly is from Abu Dhabi and is a 2013 graduate of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University, where she earned a BA in Visual Arts. She works with mixed media and found materials, exploring outdoor spaces in the Al Bahia area of Abu Dhabi. Her most recent exhibition, ‘Turning Point’ took place at Tashkeel, Dubai in 2014. In the same year, she was awarded the prestigious Sheikha Salama Artist in Residence Award, which allowed her to work for one year with visiting faculty from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Anood Al Obaidly is a conceptual artist working with found objects and the notion of process as art. Her preferred materials have ranged from cloth, knots and notebooks and more recently, plastic. For East-East, she will explore the consumption patterns of the UAE compared to Japan through the use of ‘purchased found objects’ at Daiso, the Japanese dollar-shop with branches in the UAE. Her work will carry a commentary on defining what art means, but also a social commentary on the avid and excessive fetichization for fast consumption that new generations in ultra-modern countries like the UAE and Japan seem to have.


AMNA AL MAAMARI (b. 1990, Abu Dhabi)

Amna al Maamari graduated from Zayed University of College of Art and Creative Enterprises with a B.A. Visual Arts in 2013. She developed her interests in both drawing and sculpture when she was a student. Following her graduation, Al Maamari joined the prestigious Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship Program in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design for a year-long professional studio practice. Al Maamari is driven by rhythm and aims to capture stillness in fragments.


Amna al Maamari is a remarkable artist working with metal, wood, and canvas to achieve a sense of visual balance, and as she coined it, a ‘pure sense of alignment’. Her work reminded the curator immediately of Japanese zen gardens, especially the iconic Ryōan-ji garden in Kyoto, a ‘dry garden’ made entirely of stone and founded in 1450. Amna will continue her body of work for East- East under the light of new readings about zen aesthetics and specific Japanese knotting techniques the curator has introduced to her practice.


KHALID MEZAINA (b. 1985, Dubai)

A graduate in Visual Communications from the American University of Sharjah, Khalid Mezaina entered the art world through full-time placements in art organizations, including the Sharjah Art Foundation and works currently at Tashkeel in Dubai. Khalid launched ‘Krossbreed’ in 2010, which is an independent, interdisciplinary studio and brand, involved in design and illustration. He is a graduate of the 2014-2015 edition of The Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship (SEAF) Program. His art has been featured in regional and international exhibitions including ‘Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates’ (2014); ‘Emirati Expressions IV: Conventions of Art’ (2015); and ‘Portrait of a Nation’ (Abu Dhabi Festival, 2016). 


Khalid Mezaina is a gifted photographer and artist working with hand-drawn illustrations, digitized and printed on delicate paper. His talent is evident from his earlier illustrations of carpets patterns and women wearing niqab. Interested in two-dimensional lines and forms and textile patterns, Khalid has been an example of a ukiyo-e print by Suzuki Harunobu (1724-1770) as inspiration. Khalid will create 2 to 4 prints for East-East, which will reflect his affinity for Middle Eastern fashion and patterns mixed with Japanese minimalist composition and intricate superimposed designs.


CHI-KA is a contemporary kimono and art space, working with artists and organisations reflecting on the new wave of Japanese aesthetic. While recognising tradition, its interest lies in exploring new boundaries and futures, often with cross-cultural resonance.

CHI-KA sells one of a kind, hand-crafted kimono-abayas, alongside a diverse program of collaborations in fine art, design, craft, robotics, multimedia, and performance.

The CHI-KA space was designed by architect Takeshi Murayama and designer Manabu Ozawa.


Alserkal Avenue

Located in Al Quoz, Dubai, Alserkal Avenue is the region’s foremost arts and culture neighbourhood. Since it was established in 2007, Alserkal Avenue has grown to become an essential platform for the development of homegrown artistic and cultural initiatives, supporting a vibrant community of contemporary art galleries and alternative art spaces, together with design, media and industrial studios. In 2015, in addition to its commitment to the community, Alserkal Avenue affirmed its position as an arts organisation with the launch of Alserkal Avenue Programming. The programming arm produces an annual homegrown programme for local, regional, and international audiences, working primarily with artists living and working in the MENASA region. An Artists’ Residency is scheduled to launch in 2017, further enhancing the organisation’s breadth and scope. www.alserkalavenue.ae