Afra Al Dhaheri (b. Abu Dhabi, UAE, 1988) uses a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, photography and printmaking. Her heavily process driven practice is forged through these material explorations, underpinned by conceptual and poetic cogitation. Al Dhaheri’s work is rooted in her experiences growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE – a place of recent and rapid change, where deconstruction, reconfiguration and development are always present on your immediate periphery, a footstep beyond your home threshold.
Al Dhaheri has exhibited internationally and has been an integral part of exhibition programmes in the UAE. She was shown as part of ‘Emirati Expressions’ (2011 and 2015) and worked as an intern at the Guggenheim Museum New York and the Venice Biennale in 2011. It was this exposure to a diversity of creative practices and milieus that led the artist to develop a pop-up art collective project across alternative spaces called ARTwec. In 2014, Al Dhaheri graduated from The Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship, in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, going on to study a painting MFA in 2015, also at RISD. Her First Solo show was hosted by T+H Gallery, Boston.
We take photo’s almost everyday now a days,more often to save moments and other times to share moments. This process takes a few seconds and if we are lucky a few minutes. Imagine living a life where everyday is as long as snapping a picture. Yet, there is so much happening around that you are missing out on because there isn’t time. How would you adapt? How will you keep up with the pace of fast living? Remember that once upon a time the documentation of a moment took a lot of time, effort, and energy. Those moments were genuinely experienced and so lived safely embedded within our mind and soul. However, today we live a moment that lasts a moment and jump into another, leaving our memory in a consistent ephemeral state.
Coming from a place where life rapidly evolved into a fast pace of constant change and development. I grew up surrounded by construction materials opposed by the simplicity of our life and heritage. Having to frequently move homes and schools,often as a result of the city’s expansion. In my studio,I am constantly challenging my work with these questionsof time and adaption, toughness and fragility. These keywords have become elements of my daily studio practice, each representing a phase or phenomena. Touching on ideas of belonging and longing for certain periods where hours felt like days.
Repetition hasalso become important in my studio practice.I am continuously interested in recreating works in various mediums. The idea of repeat is an obsession to fully experience my objects or bodies of work. The more I recreate the work using different materials the more it becomes embedded within me. It becomes a sort of remedy for the fast paced life of continuous development, a personal way to slow down and sensitize.
When change is inevitable, adaptation becomes a strong trait that you want to own. There is a strong bond between the artist and the land. Therefore when cities move forward to develop, the only thing that is left behind is the residue of existence that more likely is only present in our minds.As a citizen of a booming city my only resort to coop with this phenomenon is adapting to it and finding ways as an artist to reflect on the situation.