Searching for Ancient Arabia

I’m about to start a FIND fellowship at New York University Abu Dhabi called ‘Searching for Ancient Arabia’ and I’m looking for artists, curators, critics and scholars to participate in this research project.Ancient Arabia 1

Searching for Ancient Arabia is a research project performed by artists and cultural scholars/researchers based in the UAE and the region. The artists explore the ancient cultural heritage of the Arabian peninsula from the perspective of current cultural challenges, while the scholars and researchers provide input for the artists and comment on their work. The process of dialogue and research will be fully documented online. The project will result in exhibitions of the work and the process in Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam and Paris, public presentations in the UAE and an online discussion forum.

This project is inspired by the surprising absence of Ancient Arabia in contemporary culture and self-perception among Gulf Arabs. I wish to work with artists on retrieving the rich aesthetics of the ancient Arabian civilizations (Dilmun, South Arabia, Nabataeans etc) guided by the question: what can be gained by establishing a dialogue with this past? With scholars and researchers I hope to provide more depth to the explorations of the artists and provide the required handles to engage a wider audience in the UAE and the region in this discussion about its past.

Ancient Arabia 2

I’m looking for the following kind of participants based in the UAE or the region, to help me accomplish this research and work towards the exhibitions:

  • Confimed artists with an interest in this topic, used to doing research
  • Scholars and students of art, history, cultural studies, architecture and design
  • Emirati archaeologists
  • Curators and art critics interested in this topic

If you are interested please let me know (contact details can be found on this website). I plan to put together the research team early February so let me know before then!

Ancient Arabia 3

The research project will run from early February to early May 2014, and comprise the following activities:

  • Field trips with Emirati and other archaeologists, in the UAE and Oman in Feb.
  • A seminar/workshop for the research team members in Feb.
  • Discussions with the art community (for example Campus Art Dubai) and scholars and students (at NYU) in Feb and March.
  • Personal guidance by me for each individual team member throughout the program.
  • A public event to discuss the results of the research program in May.

Output will include a dynamic website to reach out to interested communities and host an online exhibition, and physical exhibitions of the work in Abu Dhabi, Paris and Amsterdam during 2014.

Ibrahim Quraishi, from the 'Family Portraits' series, 2012-2013. Photo courtesy of the artist

An example of an artist from mixed Arabian descent exploring these themes: Ibrahim Quraishi, from the ‘Family Portraits’ series, 2012-2013. Photo courtesy of the artist.

11 thoughts on “Searching for Ancient Arabia

  1. ….Being a young contemporary Indian artist with a keen interest in Art History and its new explorations and studies major AND also in the aboriginal primordial and ancient classical forms of cultures in Asian countries and their long inherent dialectical process of transformation, evolution etc., currently based in New Delhi, India, I am very much interested to be a rather activating part of this fabulous forth-coming project in order to enrich and widen my aesthetic repertoire as an individual as well as an inevitable part of some collective since I have always been fervently interested in the unique indigenous art of Arab. Please do me a favour, if there is a chance ahead and thereby let me know precisely. Regards sincerest, ~ A. B. 🙂

  2. I am an architect and educator, currently living in Dubai and teaching at ZU. I immigrated to the States in early 70s after completing my highschool in Kabul. Finished undergraduate and graduate studies in New York and Virginia, and practiced architecture and interior design in NY until 1996 and move to Dubai. I have also spent a year of teaching in Lebanon in 1993.

  3. Best wishes for 2014 with your project
    I’m very intersted in it
    please contact me you have quetion avout my work


    Raphaël Dallaporta’s atypical approach
    to photography places his work
    on the border between conceptual art
    and documentary reportage. He is
    the opposite of a solitary artist, as
    he regularly collaborates with other
    professionals that enable him to enter
    other unknown or forbidden worlds.
    His work is the fruit of his collaboration
    with military engineers,
    lawyers, forensic doctor or archaeologists…

  4. I’m a photographer and have a couple of friends working in Bahrain with Heritage. I’m based in Bahrain too, and soon to participate in an local art festival which main concept is “Foundations”. Maybe we can find a way to collaborate.
    Contact me and let me know more about what you are looking for.

  5. Dear Sir,

    I’m very interested in your project, and would like to know more about it. Currently, I’m working in Amsterdam in the Rijksmuseum, but also the Royal Tropical Institute, where I conducted some research for an upcoming exhibition on Islamic pilgrimage. I studied in London at SOAS university, specialising in the arts of the Middle East. I have taught at the University of Amsterdam, and have my own introductory course on the subject.

    I would like to know more about this project, and how I could be of any help. Please let me know.


    Thijs Gerbrandy

  6. I am currently researching the pottery tradition called Julfar Ware. It’s production can be traced back 900 years to the 11th century. It is considered to have been the largest pre-oil industry in the UAE. I delivered a lecture on Julfar Ware at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation last week as part of their Islamic Arts festival. I am very interested to hear more about your research project.

  7. Dear Madam,

    The program sounds amazing! I am an art student in Sharjah and I’m very interested in joining you and the team in this great voyage!!
    How can I apply?

    Waiting for your prompt reply

    Best regards,


  8. Dear Sara Cortright,
    you can apply by writing to Alaa Edris who will be coordinatng this research project on behalf of the the FIND team at NYU Abu Dhabi:
    I plan to give a presentation of the project on Thu 5 Feb (date, time and place need to be confirmed) in AD. I want to put together the final research team then and there.
    I’ll keep you updated. Best,
    Robert (Mr!) Kluijver

  9. Hi Sergio,
    we are planning a collaboration with Al Riwaq during the Foundations festival, coming to Bahrain with the research team probably around 8 April. You can ask Alexandra from Al Riwaq for more details. We can meet and discuss possible collaboration then.
    Robert Kluijver

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