By Denise Marray/Gulf Times Correspondent/London
The inaugural London Arabia Art and Fashion Week showcased the work of two talented creatives from Qatar alongside top talent from across the region.
Gulf Times attended the private preview at Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel near Harrods, which attracted a strong turnout of Gulf royalty, diplomats and representatives from the creative sectors.
There were two elements to the evening: a reception where the work of the artists was on display and a fashion catwalk show. At the reception, the correspondent had the chance to talk to visual artist Fatma Alshebani from Qatar, whose striking black-and-white photographs were displayed alongside some of her sculptures.
She spoke about what drives her artistic vision: “My inspiration comes from my Qatari culture and from Qatari women. It comes from my heritage and my religion.”
She paid tribute to the great contribution made to Qatar’s vibrant art culture by HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Asked why she prefers to use just black-and-white images in her photography, Alshebani explained that in her childhood black-and-white photographs were the norm and that many of her treasured memories are contained in such pictures.
Some of her photographs showed the Batoula and all convey a sense of beauty and cultural identity.
Alshebani, whose work can be seen across the Arabian Gulf, received her Bachelor degree in Fine Arts from Qatar University. She is looking to exhibit her work internationally.
“I want to participate in more exhibitions. My next exhibition will be in New York Art Fair in November – I am working towards that now,” she said.
Alongside Alshebani at the preview was her daughter Sarah Almalki, who is currently in the final year of her degree in media communications at the University of the Arts London. She is a great champion of her mother’s art.
“I really appreciate her art and what she is doing. What I have to do is support her so that she can get where she wants.
“I tell my mother to push herself for everyone to know her as an artist because she is very talented,” she commented.
Speaking of her own career plans, she said: “I hope to develop a career in the film industry – looking at directing and opening a production company. I would like to connect art to my movies in the future. For my Masters, I am thinking of studying film either in New York or Los Angeles. My dream is to be a film-maker.”
The fashion show at the private view saw a stylish presentation by Qatari designer Nouf al-Hammadi of D’Oro Fashion House.
Her beautifully crafted, flowing abayas were embellished with striking flower and geometric appliques in shimmering sky and midnight blues, greens, gold, silver and bronze. The look was subtle and poetic.
Speaking to Gulf Times after the showing of her collection, she explained that for her fashion has been a passion from a very young age.
“I have been designing since I was about 14 years old but I started with abayas almost a year ago. I studied business and graphic design – so my fashion designs are an expression of my artistic side as I did not study fashion formally.
“I started by designing gowns for relatives – for special occasions – and now we have established D’Oro with a strong baseline in abayas in the Gulf market. We started with abayas because we wanted to create a solid baseline and we will now move into different lines as well such as kaftans.”
She said she found the experience of participating in London Arabia alongside other talented creatives very rewarding. “I have done a few fashion shows in Qatar and this is my first participation outside of Qatar. This is a new experience and I am meeting new people, which is very valuable.”
She said she was particularly delighted to have the opportunity to showcase the culture of Qatar. “I am so proud to represent the culture, customs and traditions of the Gulf area and specifically for Qatar.”
London Arabia Art and Fashion Week is the brainchild of Omar Bdour, CEO of the Arab British Business Association.
In his speech at the preview, he said: “At this event, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate the rich culture of the Arab world and also to give support to the region’s artists and designers. We intend to expand our reach to include writers, musicians and many others. This is even more important now in these extremely challenging times in the Middle East.
“Our aim is to continue providing opportunities for long-lasting collaboration and exchanges across the cultural communities in both regions.”
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