Sikka19 Was a Bold Celebration of Arab Pride

Dubai under a different light

During Dubai’s Art Season, there are two major art fairs to look out for: Art Dubai and Sikka Art Fair, and both represent two facets of the city. The first echoes Dubai’s ambition to become an international player in the art world, with galleries flocking from across the globe to sell their art to collectors in search of soon-to-be blue chip artists and pricey statement pieces.

But Sikka celebrates culture and Arab pride like no other event in the cultural calendar. The nine-day event takes place in Dubai’s oldest neighborhood, where the first Emirati houses were built and offers a unique opportunity for visitors to see Dubai under a more authentic light.

In Al Fahidi District there are no skyscrapers in sight. Rather renovated traditional houses with wind-towers showing the way in which architecture once dealt with the harsh climate without hurting the planet. Artists chosen via submissions are offered rooms to display their art, the festival is free and puts a much-needed spotlight on local artists and emerging voices from neighboring countries, and more importantly instills a true sense of community. Beyond the art experience, Sikka represents a truly unique opportunity for Dubai’s culture to shine through in a cosmopolitan city that is very often shown as a consumeristic hub and not often enough known for its unique culture, millennial traditions, and especially artists.

This year, the attendees were invited to explore the winding streets of the old town and enter art filled rooms and installations by 48 GCC based artists, 21 of them being Emiratis. All artists where available to take the visitor through their art, and inviting them to their world.

Here are some of the 2019’s edition highlights.

While you Are Away

Meitha Hamdan explores the relationship between grandmothers and granddaughters. When her own grandmother Fatima was in treatment for an illness, she handmade those colourful scarves as a way of coping with time. Hamdan then took the scarves and created an installation with painted words of love shared between Fatima and herself.


Shoug Fardan and Fatma Juma come from a family of artists. Fardan is a Parson’s graduate fashion designer and Juma, her aunt a visual artist. This work on embroidery and pottery explores their family dynamic, and how both inspire each other through the mediums of art and design. The pieces explore Juma’s automatic drawings and their reflection into Fardan’s hand work. Definitely a family worth keeping up with.

The Surf Room

St+art India is an artist collective bringing art to public spaces. This year they collaborated with online retailer noon.comto create a room filled with 50kg of small Styrofoam balls. This installation was one of the fair’s most popular (especially for kids). The feeling of being engulfed in this lightweight material was as fun as it was soothing.

The Home Series: 66b st, miridf

Asma Ahmed Shikoh’s work revolves around the notion of home. After leaving her native country of Pakistan and settling in New York she started translating maps in Urdu in order for her to reappropriate the city. Having now relocated to Dubai, her new interactive piece uses QR codes spread on a metro map with accompanying audio recordings of how inhabitants of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world reappropriate it, and what part of their new city makes them feel like home.


In this photo series embroidered with a wool thread and video projection, artist Ameena Aljarman explores a neighborhood of her native Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Her work questions sentimental attachment to surroundings as an anchorage to an individual’s identity.

In a Cloud

Ahlam Al Bannai offered one of this year’s most “instagrammable” art pieces with her reflection on mental health and negativity. In a Cloud marks her second participation at Sikka Art Fair and encouraged the participants to become the wind that chase our own mental clouds.

Share this article

Related stories