SHARJAH—Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has seen a flourishing of artistic responses by people moved to share their experiences and healing through art. In Sharjah, a project that aims to inspire and enlighten young artists in this challenging year has drawn an outpouring of responses from students and amateur artists hoping to be included in Sharjah Youth’s latest exhibition, “Art for All.”
Sharjah Youth, part of the Rubu’ Qarn Foundation, identifies talented young people between the ages of 13 and 18 and provides them with a space where they can cultivate their gifts and acquire skills through the institution’s eight centers around the emirate of Sharjah. Established in 2004, the program has activities across arts, sports, life skills, entrepreneurship, science and technology, and literature and languages.
The “Art for All” project, which will be on view later this month via a virtual platform, is open to artists in two age categories, under 18 and over, with artists as young as 6 hoping to be chosen.
More than 1,000 works were submitted in the first phase of the selection process, and the entries, all under the theme “Standing Apart Is Standing Together,” are flooded with reminders of a year in which the whole world changed, seen through the eyes of the imaginative youth experiencing it. The next phase will winnow the submissions down to a short list for the platform.
Mohammad Nael, 17, is one of those who have reached Phase 2 of the selection process. He took his inspiration from Japanese anime. His use of oni masks, which represent demons and played a prominent role in Japanese mythology and folklore, lends an obvious darkness to his work. Death is also apparent, along with themes of weaponry such as Japanese swords and poignant female portraiture.
“Even from home, you can create a beautiful world in your mind, The beauty of art comes from within, and Covid helped me realize that.”Mohammad Nael
A 17-year-old artist
“The current pandemic is making people scared of death and suffering since it’s a virus,” Nael explains, “and in the Japanese culture people who wore the oni masks were feared by the public,” believed to be demons. “The oni mask usually resembles death and suffering and punishment, so I think it’s similar in a way,” he says.
Nael has been prolific during the pandemic, producing 60 or 70 paintings and drawings since March. “Even from home, you can create a beautiful world in your mind,” he says. “The beauty of art comes from within, and Covid helped me realize that.”
Mohammad Ahmad Al Gahaf, 18, says art is bound to reflect reality. “There’s no doubt we live in strange times, and to me, strange times resulted in strange artworks,” he says. “Art represents the imagination,” he adds. “I hope that artists who feel like the world is so different and that they can’t adapt to it, can get inspired to look deeper within themselves. I’m sure they will find beautiful worlds to portray.”
Though Al Gahaf has missed the social aspects of life during the pandemic, he says it has allowed him space to develop his skills in drawing. He specializes in black and white pencil sketches, with a strong theme towards space. He hopes his art will inspire others to dream.
For 17-year-old Ahmad Obaid, cartoons and anime have been a passion since he was 13, especially Japanese culture. “I always tried a lot to imitate their art style, and from anime I was inspired to create ‘Demon Slayer.”
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Covid-19 has given Obaid more time to explore his talent and reassess how he uses his time. The quiet time has suited him, he says. “Unlike some people, I didn’t feel bored because I am an introvert. I enjoy spending my time watching anime and playing games, and actually, not meeting my school friends wasn’t a big issue with me because I used to play with them all the time and communicate with them through Zoom and WhatsApp.”
Participants hoping to be included in “Art For All” have submitted works in media including oil painting, mosaic, sculpture and photography, as well as prints, design, calligraphy and multimedia arts.
For more information, visit Sharjah Youth’s website.