8 Trailblazing Emirati Creatives Molding the Cultural Future of the UAE

Over its 51-year-lifespan, the UAE has gifted the world a slew of creative talents. These are our favorites.

ART & CULTURE 02/12/2022
Menna Shanab

Home to a vibrant creative scene whose variety bears witness to its bright creativity, the UAE is a treasure trove of talent waiting to be uncovered. With the UAE celebrating 51 years of incredible vision and ingenuity, we are placing the spotlight on eight young Emirati creatives who are pushing the envelope, molding the cultural future of the country and paving the road for the next five decades of the UAE. From emerging designers to film directors and art curators, a handful of names in the industry have left an indelible mark on their industries.

Sarah Alhashimi | Film Director

A trailblazer in the Emirati film scene, film director Sarah Alhashmi is spelling out the story of her motherland and paving the road for the next generation of Emirati creatives with her internationally-acclaimed films, documentaries and experimental shorts. Embarking on her filmmaking journey shortly after graduation, the 27-year-old filmmaker set off on a mission to harness the power of film to showcase the evolving identity and shifting cultural norms of UAE society to a global audience. 

Portrait by: Aqib Anwar

Rawdha Thani | Designer, Founder of Illi Studio & Dear All Space

This Emirati designer is leaving an indelible mark on the future of modest wear in the region with her couture abaya label illi Studio. The brainchild of designer Rawdha Thani, illi Studio elevates the traditional abaya with a contemporary flair while espousing age-old technique to chic and modern fashion. In a world of fast fashion and immense globalization, Radwha’s vision is to contribute to the preservation of her heritage by taking the abaya out of its confined milieu and asserting its continued presence for generations to come. Rawdha’s journey in design has been one of discovery and empowerment that allows her to unlock her potential across a myriad of styles with a vision to celebrate Emirati women who aspire to break glass ceilings and embrace the unconventional.

Shaikha Al Qasimi | Professional CrossFit Athlete

Fitness enthusiast Shaikha Al Qasimi is a force to be reckoned with, shattering social norms and pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a woman in sports. The professional Emirati CrossFit athlete has been championing for more women in the sport in the region, using her platform and personal growth to be a vocal advocate to end body shaming of women and empower others to pursue their fitness goals. Since kicking off her CrossFit journey in 2012, Shaikha has amassed a loyal following of fitness fanatics, launched her own inclusive gym ‘Platform Fitness Gym’ and snagged the coveted title of Red Bull athlete.

Ahmed Emad | Art Director & Civil Engineer

Conceptual artist Ahmed Emad is a veteran in the UAE contemporary art realm, with his surrealist mixed media work populating various exhibitions and galleries across the country. His work oscillates between minimalism and formal compositions exploring existential themes with surrealist overtones using a distinct fusion of color and texture. Each of his pieces embodies a unique concept, be it conceptual work, or experimenting space and interacting with the audience. Ahmed has also been dabbling in the NFT world, driven by a desire to showcase how art can evolve into many forms and how we can adapt to new ways of artistic expression.

Noora Al Neyadi | Photographer

Armed with her camera, a keen attention to detail and her appreciation of the spaces around her, UAE-based photographer Noora Al Neyadi vividly captures the essence of whatever subject she sets her eyes on. Often using photography as a tool to humanize, Noora brilliantly captures everything from intimate portraits to sweeping landscapes and soaring aerial views. A study in portraiture, aerial compositions, street photography and everything in between, Noora’s work has been showcased both locally and internationally, with her passion for employing imagery to tell stories taking her all over the globe.

 Amna Al Qubaisi | Racer 

Young champion Amna Al Qubaisi is a pioneering figure for female representation in racing. At the ripe age of 21, her vast accomplishments far exceed her age. Still only at the beginning of her career, Amna has claimed many achievements such as being the first female and Arab to win an FIA F4 race in 2019 and the first female Arab to win the UAE RMC in 2017. She is also the first Emirati to take part in a Formula E test session after the Ad Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia. Amna also counts the 2018 Italian F4 Championship with Prema in her kitty.

Maitha Demithan | Artist 

The Dubai-based artist weaves together several mediums; photography, scanography, painting, drawing and photo transfers to create surrealist, deconstructed portraits that encapsulate her Emirati community, traditional cultural imagery and contemporary practice. Using a flatbed printer to take multiple images of her subjects, Maitha produces a composite result that is a mechanical record of the figures but it also includes an emotional statement. Maitha’s work has appeared in various exhibitions including her solo show ‘Mutajadid’ (Tashkeel, 2014), which included experimental installations and new media pieces, as well as in ‘Documentation’ (Tashkeel, 2009) where her first scanned self-portraits appeared and ‘Across the Gulf’ (Brisbane Biennial, 2009). Other group shows include ‘Emerge’ (Venice, 2011), ‘Emirati Vision’ (Berlin, 2009) and ‘Biladi’ at the UAE Pavilion, EXPO 2010 Shanghai.

Hind Bin Demaithan Al Qemzi | Curator & Creative Director

Founder and Creative Director of ‘Hamzat Wasl Studio’, curator, artist and video composer, are just some of the many hats donned by Emirati Multi-hyphenate Hind Bin Demaithan Al Qemzi. Today she is a leader in contemporary art, with her work exhibited in galleries and museums internationally where video design for immersive performances was a focal point of her practice. Hind Bin Demaithan’s expertise and passion integrate creative concepts prioritizing heritage rebrand seen through arts, design and culture. She has represented the UAE on several occasions including Design Connections, London Design Pavilion (Venice Biennale, 2009), The Sheikha Manal Bint Mohammed Al Maktoum Art Exchange Programme, Frieze Art Fair (UK, 2009); ART Basel (Switzerland, 2008) and ART Basel Miami Beach (USA, 2009).

Portrait by: Saeed Khalifa

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