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In partnership with the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Warehouse421 presents: 'On Foraging exploring food security and agricultural sustainability in the UAE'

HE Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, and HE Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, yesterday celebrated the “On Foraging: Food Knowledge and Environmental Imaginaries in the UAE’s Landscape” exhibition at the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020. 

Commissioned by Warehouse421, a home-grown arts and design center dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production across the region, and in partnership with the UAE Pavilion, the exhibition focused on the question of food security and sustainable agriculture. 

Hosted at the pavilion’s special guest experience section, the exhibition showcases works of 11 UAE-based international and local artists. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication exploring research work around food knowledge and environmental imaginaries in the UAE’s landscape, and both were curated by Dima Srouji, Faysal Tabbarah and Meitha Al Mazrooui. 

HE Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth said: “The UAE Pavilion reflects how our country’s values, of ambition and humanity, authenticity and openness, and resilience and optimism, passed to us by our ancestors, continue to guide our growth into the future.

Collectively, in the UAE, we hold the value of investing in human connections highly and this is reflected in the arts and creativity expressed by people from all over the world in this unique exhibition”. 

The UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai presents the UAE as the Land of Dreamers Who Do and showcases the remarkable transformation that the nation has undergone in 50 years. The journey is told through the stories of the UAE’s Dreamers Who Do, from the early founders to present day Dreamers that embody the nation’s values, inspire communities and continue to carry on a strong commitment to collective progress. The country’s dedication to agricultural entrepreneurship and exploring innovative solutions to food security has been a long part of the UAE’s history.

HE Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment said: “Food security is a crucial global policy priority, the efforts of the UAE, reveal in practical terms, how the lessons drawn from our history as a nation and as a crossroads for people, goods, and ideas, continues to shape our approach to meeting the needs of the future.”

Faisal Al Hassan, Head of Warehouse421 said: “There is no better time to curate the works of artists and creatives who are exploring pressing world issues from a local perspective. From cultivating arid lands and seascapes through private, entrepreneurial, and national food security projects, we are very pleased to partner with the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to explore what it means for people to be constantly searching for food in the landscapes of the UAE. Climate change and the potential food and water shortages are some of the most important themes explored at Expo 2020 Dubai, and we want to tell the story of the UAE.”

The exhibition represents a mesmerizing tour featuring films by Nujoom Al Ghanem, who explores the bee-keeping communities in the mountains of the UAE in an ethnographic documentary, and “Dhohrana” for Vikram Divecha who follows a municipal gardener while expressing themes of rootedness, cultivation, and connection in oral history. 

Through photography, prolific artist and photographer Tarek Al Ghoussein presents large-scale photographs that describe the ways in which the natural environment travels with people, highlighting the relationship between cultural and environmental imaginaries. Reem Falaknaz captures through a series of images the intergenerational relationships to the land revealing a story of kinship between people and the environment. 

Meanwhile, Ammar Al Attar documents seasonal fruit trees within domestic spaces in the UAE capturing the role of indigenous plants as a marker of seasonal change. 

In “Harvest Feast”, Paola Sakr explores through his sculptural work the paradoxes of non-seasonal food consumption and highlights the types of seasonal produce available within the UAE landscape despite, if not because of, its arid climate. At the same time, Shaikha Al Mazrou’s disc-like series of sculptures respond to the monumental circular crop fields on one of the only areas in the UAE that uses pivot irrigation methods. 

Mohammad Ahmed Ibrahim seeks through his work “Grill” to engage audiences to further explore the nature, material, and narrative of his sculpture. Abdullah Al Saadi presents his charcoal drawings “Sweet Potatoes”, each set within its own decorative tin box, which he produced on his many camping journeys in the past years to the Al Hajar Mountains, the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula. Meanwhile, Abir Mnasria and Zaina Khayyat use mixed media in the shape of thread on a wire mesh canvas to highlight seafood production with special emphasis on the complexities of oyster farms. 

Through sounds of people, environments and food-producing machinery, Eileen Vasquez seeks to evoke the soundscapes encountered in production spaces and expose the complexity of collaborations between people who work within them. 

The exhibition also features the research work, interviews, personal reflections and narratives that influenced the event. The exhibition publication presents three interviews that shed light on the ways in which public and private entities can collaborate to tackle food security issues in the UAE. Her Excellency Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, speaks of the key programs implemented to improve food security in the UAE; and Mohammed Jouan Al Dhaheri, Chairman of the Board of The Farms, examines the necessary conditions that allow innovative agricultural projects to succeed. Dr. Alamira Reem Bani Hashem interviews Dr. Merle Jensen, Professor Emeritus of Plant Life Sciences at the University of Arizona, who worked on experimental agriculture projects in Abu Dhabi in the 1960s.

Other contributors also include Fatema Al Mulla; Dr. Maid Al Qasimi, Greg Ohannessian, and Alpha Kennedy; Rahul Gudipudi; researcher Auguste Nomeikaite, Ali Karimi and Hamed Bukhamseen; Todd Reisz; Dalal Musaed Al Sayer; Sundar Raman; artist Mays Al Baik; and Deepak Unnikrishnan.

On Foraging exhibition will move to Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi and will be opened to the public in September 2022.