In the inaugural Dubai Calligraphy Biennale, organised by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and patronized by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, Efie Gallery, a Dubai-based contemporary art gallery specialising in African-origin artists, presents the INTERwoven TEXTures exhibition. This showcase features creative works and artistic sculptures by Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk that eloquently convey the strength of dialogue and shared human experiences.
The exhibition includes 15 artworks, marking Ekpuk’s first solo show in the Middle East. Through it, he continues his exploration of Nsibidi, an ancient graphic communication system from south-eastern Nigeria and north-western Cameroon. In his new series, developed during his residency at New York University Abu Dhabi in September, Ekpuk illuminates the rich cultural intersections in the region. Additionally, it celebrates themes such as cultural memory, spirituality, and the identity of the African diaspora.
Ekpuk, in the creation of his latest sculptures, harnessed the expressive power of wood. The exhibition also introduces four new metal sculptures and two previously unseen canvas works. These canvases are adorned with Ekpuk’s distinctive abstract language, characterised by intricate script, symbols, and markings inspired by Nsibidi pictograms. Alongside the ongoing INTERwoven TEXTures exhibition, which runs until November 21 as part of the artist’s residency with Efie Gallery, Ekpuk is showcasing his 3m x 3m masterpiece, ‘Passage to Promise,’ at Dubai Design District.
Ekpuk stressed that his primary goal was to push viewers towards feeling the work rather than trying to read the marks literally, saying: “My art is a tribute to the power of dialogue; it extends an invitation to engage with our shared collective human experiences. Inspired by Nsibidi, a graphic system in Africa, the intricate tapestries of Middle Eastern heritage, as well as the global contemporary art, I have developed a unique vocabulary-a style of abstraction which draws from these aesthetics concepts, resulting in a visual symphony with elements of familiarity. Through this exchange of interwoven textures and cultural references, my artwork is an intertext of a cultural narrative composed of visual symbols, histories, and stories that transcend time and place.”
The Museum of the Future will also host two talks, the first, titled ‘Cross-Cultural Dialogue: From Ancient Script to Contemporary Art’, taking place on 14 October. This session constitutes an opportunity to explore the ability of traditional calligraphy in adapting to the contemporary artistic scene as an inspiring expressive tool in different societies and cultures. For this talk, the museum will host artist Victor Ekpuk, Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, a critical heritage scholar; Professor Awam Ampka, Head of the Film and New Media Program and Professor of Drama and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University Abu Dhabi; Alia Al Shamsi; and Dr. Antoine Abi Aad, moderated by Rebecca Anne Proctor. As for the second talk, entitled ‘Public Art Masterpiece’, that shall be held on October 29, where Emirati Artist Mattar Bin Lahej will discuss his experience in designing the calligraphy on the museum’s artistic façade. His talk will explore how this design goes beyond traditional architectural styles and the role of public art within the cityscape. It will also provide insights into the relationship between art and technology as well as methods for selecting locations for large-scale installations.
The inaugural edition of Dubai Calligraphy Biennale, which hosts 19 exhibitions and activates 35+ locations across Dubai, is supported by Al Rostamani Group (Lead Supporter) and Sandooq Al Watan (Supporter), and is being held in partnership with a variety of entities in the local cultural scene, including: Dubai Design District (D3), The Cultural and Scientific Association, Mohammed bin Rashid Library, Expo City Dubai, DIFC Gate Avenue, Museum of the Future, Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation, Juma Al-Majid Center, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai Media Office, Dubai Municipality, Alserkal Avenue, Art Dubai, Women’s Museum, Tashkeel, Art Jameel, Mattar Bin Lahej Gallery, Boccara Gallery, Foundry, Khawla Art Gallery, Firetti Gallery, Efie Gallery, BEDU, AWC Gallery, Hobb Bookstore, Opera Gallery, Mondoir Art Gallery, thejamjar, Medaf, Mirzam, Kalimat, Slay Café, Frame Café, 3IXAM, Huawei, and Level Shoes.