First Emirati-led light art festival kicks off at Expo City Dubai

by Staff Reporter
Published: Updated:
Dhai Dubai

Dhai Dubai, the first-ever Emirati-led light art festival, has launched its illuminating 10-day programme at Expo City Dubai.

The event celebrates the rich artistic tapestry of Emirati through a series of awe-inspiring artistic projections, interactive installations, enlightening talks and creative workshops.

The free-to-attend festival is created and organised by Expo City Dubai, in partnership with AGB Creative and supported by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and will run from January 26 to February 4.

Dhai Dubai at Expo City

The launch was attended by Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts Literature Sector at Dubai Culture from Dubai Culture, the curators Amna Abulhoul, Executive Creative Director at Expo City Dubai, and Anthony Bastic AM, CEO & Executive Creative Director at AGB Creative in addition to local and international media. The attendees were taken into a mesmerizing journey of lights and music, stopping at each larger-than-life stunning light art installations by seven renowned Emirati artists and designers.

Artists at the event

Artists lighting up the inaugural event include Mattar Bin Lahej, known for designing the calligraphic façade on the Museum of the Future; pioneering artist Dr Najat Makki, honoured with the French Chevalier of Arts and Letters; Emirates Fine Arts Society co-founder Dr Mohamed Yousef; designer Abdulla Almulla, who participated in last year’s London Design Biennale and Dubai Design Week; multi-disciplinary artist Maitha Hamdan; esteemed designer Khalid Al Shafar, renowned for his collaborations with LASVIT and the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum; and celebrated visual artist Reem Al Ghaith.

Al Wasl Plaza

Meanwhile, Al Wasl Plaza’s iconic dome, spanning 130 metres wide and 67.5 metres tall, with a 360-degree projection surface, will come to life with a series of special projection shows titled Sisters of the Desert.

The show is inspired by the exceptional work of the late Emirati artist, Dhabia Juma Lamlah, who embodied the resilient soul of Dubai. Dhabia Juma Lamlah defied her inability to use her right hand and communicate through speech, by expressing herself through more than 200 remarkable artworks.

Reflecting Dubai’s spirit of multicultural collaboration, the show also features special guests, Australian artist Rene Kulitja and South African artist Dr Esther Mahlangu, who weave together a narrative of resilience and cross-cultural connectivity, using art to bridge people separated by seemingly vast distances.

In keeping with Dubai’s dedication to humanitarianism, and Dhai Dubai’s firm belief in the transformational power of light, the festival has collaborated with the Expo Live award-winning Liter of Light initiative – a global, grassroots movement that uses affordable, accessible materials to provide high-quality solar lighting to those with limited or no access to electricity.

The festival will be supporting light lanterns to be distributed to the floating villages of Agusan Marsh in the Philippines. Festival visitors will also have the opportunity to pledge to contribute toward Liter of Light’s mission in communities across the Philippines, Kenya, Cameroon, and India.

People-powered activities

The festival also encourages visitors to not only immerse themselves in art, but to interact with it through a series of striking installations. As part of the festival’s people-powered activities, skating turns into an art form at the Speed of Light skate park by XDubai, elevated by illustrations from prominent Emirati artist, Aysha Al Hamrani.

Dr. Saeed Mubarak Kharbash Al Marri, Chief Executive Officer – Arts & Literature at Dubai Culture & Arts Authority said: “The inaugural Dhai Dubai light art festival is a welcome addition to Dubai’s expanding creative economy. We encourage visitors to explore the artists’ diverse perspectives on the city, its landscapes and its values. This enlightening cultural experience reflects Dubai Culture’s efforts to support creatives’ efforts to reflect the emirate’s creative identity, values, and heritage.”

Rich cultural tapestry

Amna Abulhoul, Executive Creative Director at Expo City Dubai, said: “Today, we add another bright light to our vibrant city. Dhai Dubai is designed and curated as a tribute to the rich cultural tapestry of the city and country we call home, and we would like to convey our deepest thanks and gratitude to the seven Emirati artists who graced our first edition, for through their stunning artworks, and the accompanying installations and programme, we will showcase this UAE’s spirit of creativity, diversity, resilience and compassion to the world, paving the way for many more editions led by UAE’s magnificent pool of talents.”

Anthony Bastic AM, CEO & Executive Creative Director at AGB Creative added: “Dhai Dubai is a wonderful opportunity to delve deeper into the narratives of those who call this fascinating country home. Together, these artists and designers will illuminate various facets of Emirati and Arab culture, expressing the region’s rich depth of cultural and creative heritage through one of the most exciting contemporary creative mediums.”


Elsewhere, Solar Canopy, an interactive installation powered by guests cycling on stationary bikes, demonstrates how collective participation generates more power than solitary efforts; Elysian Arcs invites guests to walk under graceful, curved structures to explore the interplay of colour, light and human emotions; and Solar Dance, which invites visitors to freely dance amid responsive lights, creating a fleeting, collaborative art piece in real time.

A series of enlightening talks will offer deeper insights into the festival’s themes as part of its Knowledge Programme. Curious minds can also join the festival’s creative workshops, including a Lens and Light masterclass that offers attendees a lesson on how to paint with light through photography.

Families are also welcome to bring their children to experience more than 20 activities and workshops for children, designed to unleash their creativity and curiosity. From light art workshops to crafting wearable art from luminous light sticks, the programme will inspire kids aged 3 to 12 to explore new artforms and mediums.

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