A self-portrait by Mark Abdel Malak shows the fourth-grader with his mouth agape, yelling “let me out” in a spiked speech bubble. Half of his face is concealed behind a tie dye-like swirl of colours, each with a word that is indicative to the times.
“Stay home” in red, “bored” in yellow, “distancing” in purple, and “virus” written in the green and gray stream, complete with sketches of the Covid-19 molecule.
The work seems to reflect on the emotions that Abdel Malek, and other students, are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Abdel Malak, a student at the Raffles International School, is just one of 314 students who are having their artworks currently being shown in an online exhibition by the Innoventures Education Group.
The exhibition, which launched on Sunday, June 28, comes after an art competition that the Innoventures Education Group held across its five schools in the UAE. The annual competition, which carried out its sixth iteration this year, was held under the theme Journeys.
“Initially, the competition was going to be held under the Expo 2020 theme,” says Wafaa Mohamed, an art teacher at the Raffles International School.
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold – and the Dubai Expo was pushed to 2021 – Mohamed says the theme was changed to reflect the circumstances.
“I wanted the theme to be open to interpretation, so students can express what they were going through. These are unprecedented times and they bring unique challenges, whether related to health, education or family.”
In the competition call, students were asked to reflect on a story of change and development. “Whether it’s your journey or someone close to you, whether it’s a journey of healing, success, evolving or empowerment. Each journey has a special significance that adds to your experiences and values.”
Another work in the exhibition, titled Morning Walk Journey, is by Aarish Kulaye, a second-grader at the Raffles International School. It shows the walk Kulaye takes around his neighbourhood in the mornings, with triangular and popsicle-shaped trees, cheerful cats and a large droopy-eyed bird looking languidly across at a smiling sun.
The artwork is charming, imaginative and won Kulaye first place in the competition’s 2D category. The competition included three other categories, including 3D, photography and video art.
“Students from grade one to grade 13 took part in the competition,” Mohamed says. “We first held online workshops for two weeks in March, where we elaborated on the theme and helped students find materials to work with.”
As going out for art supplies was not possible, especially in the first few weeks of the pandemic due to strict restrictions put in place to thwart the spread of the virus, Mohamed says she advised students to work with whatever they found at home.
“From markers, to coffee beans and even ketchup,” she says. “The goal was to have them creatively express themselves.”
Students were then given a few months to work on their projects before submitting them earlier this month.
“We sat down to sort everything out and then held an online meeting on Saturday, June 20, where judges discussed the works for more than five hours and picked out the winners.”
The winning art works were selected by a five-person jury that included established artists from Egypt, Sudan, Germany, KSA and India.
“They each picked out their top three works and then also two others for Judges’ Awards, which are works that didn’t make it to the top three but deserved recognition anyway,” Mohamed says.
Updated: June 29, 2020 05:40 PM