“With the success of the art fair seen on the very first day this definitely has to be an event that needs to be on a yearly basis. I think December is the right time where the artists can prepare their work. We are looking for smaller works that are ‘affordable’ – that is the key word. It is also a gathering of minds and artists as well as people to interact with us as a museum in the city. Gauging from the response this is going to be a yearly event,” said Malik al Hinai, Director of Bait al Baranda.
We came across art that is wearable, ready to carry, art for when you drink coffee, art on your table, art whilst you read – the list was endless.
Naima al Maimani, an artist and a jewellery designer who has her own gallery described the selected work for the exhibition, “This represents the women with one earring. That means she is a strong woman only a woman with self-confidence could wear a single earring. She does not care of what the society thinks because she is not doing something wrong.”
Rachel Maciver, a writer who also shares a passion for photography shared that something that was ignited in her when she began exploring of Oman. She has been following her passion for 14 years. Over the years, her photograph subjects take her to new locations. She claims that the inspirations are never ending.
At the art fair she had been signing her book, that has just been launched, ‘Oman – Not all Black and White.’ “I am not a photographer, really I never learned to take photographs and I only began when I came to Oman because when I went out I released there was so much to keep as memory. It was memories of Oman at first then I started to play with the photos and the frames — a bit of colour here and a cut there. I realised other people enjoyed it too. It started as a way to raise money for a charity and realised it went very well. I was also writing feature stories for Oman Observer and used the pictures to accompany the articles.”
Here she is with the full-fledged book. “It is a home kneaded book. It is printed here in Oman. The texts that accompany the pictures are not explaining the pictures but just my thoughts that came from me being there when I took that particular picture. So it is more poetic than explanation.”
The feedback that the artists had received was that not everyone could afford the big pieces of artwork. There are galleries for the more expensive art but affordable art caters to everybody. To prove that point, Shabib al Balushi, a fellow artist was charging only one rial for calligraphy to have it on a cup or a poster.
“Let everyone enjoy calligraphy in their lives,” Shabib remarked enthusiastically adding, “This has been so encouraging I am not stopping or taking a break.” The long line of people waiting to get something special for families and friends has been so exciting declared the artist who remembers working on calligraphy since he was six. He goes far away from using just black ink and boldly writes in purple, red and other colours.
Visitors who came urged the artists to regularly host art and craft fairs like the ones seen in across the globe. Meanwhile Issa al Mufarji was busy filling up empty spaces on the wall because he had already sold his work on the first day. When you go to his side of the wall you stop awestruck as you begin to realise that on the wall is an enlarged version of Omani jewellery. “Is it made of clay or metal?” and he replied, “Fiberglass.”
From the early morning, people poured in and there was a gleam in the artists’ eyes as they watched the visitors enjoying the exhibition and the interaction with the artists, for Radhika Hamlai, it was definitely a dream come true.
It was just a concept and with her artist friends and Bait al Baranda, this was made into a reality. Radhika herself has been in the Omani art scene for the last 20 years.
“I can connect with the child in me when I paint. Life is all about those little moments. We should never give them up. You as a child never grow up. It is an important part of being human not matter how old you are,” said Radhika. Her original art is on bags, coasters and scarves. She likes working with paints and inks for her abstract work that exudes happiness.
Across the room was Tahira Fida, an artist from Muttrah. Her work carried memories of her childhood in Muttrah such as collecting sea shells and the words of iconic Omani poets who inspired her. At the Affordable Art Fair, her art work had shifted from being on canvas to bookmarks and notepads.
“I think it is brilliant to see people are showing great interest in buying art works as gifts instead of the typical selection,” said the artist who studied art in US.
When asked what if art today was still considered a hobby or a job, she shared, “It depends on how you communicate the message and your ability to present your art to reach out to the audience. The art scene is improving. I started in 1997, in comparison it has been a huge jump. But we still cannot compare to the rest of the region because in some of the countries art is included in the syllabus.”
Reeham Noor al Zadjali, studied Art and Art history in Paris but had been only conducting annual exhibitions for the last ten years. Here, on the very first day, she had sold all her work. Interestingly, she enjoys painting in black and white with the exception of one special painting done with colour and that was one of the first to sell. She also has a series of dancing ballerinas. “I have got a feedback on how they like the colour. I am taking that as a serious recommendation. I love monochrome colours,” said Reeham.
The end of the exhibition was marked with the artist packing away their left over artwork but beaming with inspiration and creativity from the energies of the art lovers who had visited their booths throughout the day.