Sharjah is the cultural capital of the UAE, with 18 high-spec museums devoted to showcasing and exploring a range of interests: maritime history, science and Islamic civilization, to name a few.
Many of the museums are clustered in the Heart of Sharjah, the oldest part of town (though many of the buildings have been rebuilt fairly recently, in traditional style, and there are plans to expand this heritage heart of the city.)
Amidst the small lanes and wide squares sits the Calligraphy Museum, alongside the studios for working calligraphers. The permanent collection includes calligraphy from across the Arabic-speaking world, from Morocco to Iraq and across the Gulf region. The Museum also has a library, with books in English and Arabic, and space for children to learn and practise.
There was a beautiful, shimmering exhibition of calligraphy art entitled “Prayers,” by Khalifa el Shimy. Unfortunately, the Museum had very little interpretation, in either English or Arabic, so while I would have liked to learn more about the pieces, and their relationship to words and text, I had to be content just gazing at the work.
At the Book Fair, I resolved to find out more about calligraphy: Saqi Books had a stunning title called The Calligrapher’s Garden, available in the UK in English, and I spotted a calligraphy workshop in the programme. Alas, the time was listed wrongly, and I turned up just as the artist was finishing up his final piece.
Around the corner, there was plenty of interpretation at the highly professional, absorbing and completely empty Sharjah Art Museum. I visited twice, and while I did hear some children in a workshop, I never saw another visitor in the spacious, cool halls. There were three exhibitions: a display of British Orientalism, the Sultan’s collection of Persian etchings, and the wonderfully bright and textured work of contemporary artist Najat Meky.
Najat Meky is a locally-based painter and sculptor, and her expansive solo show was being given prime space in the Museum’s galleries, taking place across three levels and with banners and adverts across Sharjah.
Entitled Colourful Rhythms: Lasting Impressions, it was a vibrant and exciting show – great to see such dynamic work, and to read alongside it the artist’s own impressions and motivations:
This exhibition is an extension of previous experiences. It is an invitation to join the rhythm of the painting, and navigate in its ocean that has never calmed down.