Culture vultures, it’s officially Dubai Art Season! A string of artistic and cultural events are going to flood Dubai starting with the Sikka Art and Design Festival. Back for its 11th year, this creative festival takes over the alleys of old Dubai’s Al Fahidi Neighbourhood and stays true to its name. Wondering what I’m on about? Fun fact: Sikka is the Arabic word for alleyway.
The UNESCO heritage district’s narrow alleys and bylanes winding between the traditional sandstone buildings have come alive with art installations, live musical performances, poetry readings, murals, film screenings and mouthwatering food stalls as part of Sikka Art And Design Festival. For those of you who’ve dragged your heels when it comes to exploring old Dubai, this is your moment. Activities and events are running until March 5 and will be spread out across 13 historic houses in the Al Fahidi district.
Over 188 Emirati artists as well as creative talents based in the UAE and GCC are bringing the creekside neighbourhood alive with their art. This year’s theme for Sikka Art and Design Festival is ‘New creativity. Same Path’. You could easily lose yourself in the alleys and courtyards chockful of interactive exhibits and live performances.
1. ‘Proudly from Dubai’ Food Market
A festival without food is unimaginable and Sikka doesn’t disappoint at all. 28 of Dubai’s beloved homegrown restaurants and cafes have put up stalls so visitors can savour their delish food and their success stories. Popular players in the food scene such as chocolate shop Mirzam, Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant, Balkan bistro 21 Grams, ramen experts Ugly Noodles, artsy cafe XVA, Palestinian pop-up dinner concept Haya’s Kitchen, Mamarama and more.
In the last decade Dubai’s street art and graffiti scene has exploded, giving birth to vibrant picture-perfect murals. Adding to that list will be six more murals created for Sikka Art and Design Festival. Keep your eyes peeled for Emirati artist Abdulla Lutfi’s ‘My Dubai’ which outlines the emirate’s journey. Fatma Al Ali’s ‘Ya labes el Tally’ is a window into traditional Emirati fashion focusing on garments such as thobes and kandooras. This mural shines a light on the beauty of the local talli embroidery and golden jewellery.
There are nine quirky and engaging installations scattered around Sikka but make it a point to seek out Alexy Goguet’s installation called ‘Once Upon A Snack’. Especially if you were born and raised in Dubai. The French artist’s installation is an ode to all the local snack brands that kids in the UAE grew up munching on – their logos are recreated using Lego bricks. ‘Threads of time’ by Hamda Al Falahi and Reema Al Mheiri is an interactive installation where visitors can weave threads onto a blank canvas as a tribute to the region’s rich textile heritage.
Also, swing by ‘Migrant Minds’, a sculpture of a bindle (cloth bag on a stick) by Moey Studio. It’s a thought-provoking and moving depiction of the hopes, dreams and fragments of their identity that expats bring to the UAE to build a better life here.
4. Film screenings
Cinema and animation’s rightful place in the art world is cemented with free-to-view screenings at Sikka Art and Design Festival. On March 2, catch a screening of the sports drama ‘Secretariat’ which narrates the story of how Penny Chenery Tweedy excelled in the male-dominated horse racing industry with her winning horse Secretariat. Documentary ‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound’ will be shown on March 3. Animated film ‘Spirit Untamed’ which deals with a young girl’s friendship with a wild horse and the adventures that ensue screens on March 4.
Quirky feature film Brian and Charles that delves into the story of a lonely inventor who creates a robot to keep him company screens on March 5.
Timings: every day from 8:15pm to 10:15pm
5. Workshops and talks
Pick up new skills or engage in hobbies you love with a host of absolutely free workshops at Sikka. Sharjah Performing Arts is organising meditation flow workshop on March 3 and a modern jazz workshop on March 4. Foto UAE is hosting a Let’s Get Weird Photowalk on March 4 that’s open to anyone who wants to, well, be weird. You can use a weird camera, carry your equipment in a weird bag, or wear weird clothes and accessories. Sign up for workshops teaching pottery, watercolour painting, gypsum carving, metal casting and even neurotechnology. More of a thinker than a doer? Attend talks on music by Dubai-based musician Abri, rapper/Spoken word artist Suhaib al3s3s. Find dates and timings here