An Emirati artist is urging people to turn off their Instagram and go see some art with their own eyes this Ramadan.
Renowned Dubai artist Mattar Bin Lahej's steel calligraphy sculpture, entitled Moon Reflections, forms part of an Islamic Art exhibition featuring rare, educational artefacts, being held at The Dubai Mall during the holy month of Ramadan.
He urged people to get off Instagram and Twitter, and feed their eyes on the exhibition.
"Everybody should come down and see it as live art. Most of my friends say ‘we have seen it through Instagram or Twitter', but I say no — go to see, you need to give your eyes something directly, not through technology.”
Located near the Waterfall, his ornate steel construction features a series of silver rings interlinked by a thread of twisting calligraphy, and bookended by a bronze moon, signifying the beginning of Ramadan and the start of life, and a gold moon signifying a "gift from God”.
The intermediary reflections of the moon and "flying letters” illustrate peoples' good deeds as they pass through the month of Ramadan.
Bin Lahej, who began his career as a painter and photographer, began sculpting initially with softer materials such as clay seven years ago, and has exhibited in Abu Dhabi, Germany, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey and the USA.
This piece, created from sheet metal which he cut, welded, etched and twisted using special machinery to create a "flowing” work which embodied the positive aspects of human life, took him 25 days to create.
Movement was created using elements that flowed and guided the viewer's eyes through the artwork, he said.
"(My art) has to have a story. When I touch the steel, I need to make a movement to attract the attention of everybody — not just other artists, but the normal people.
"Some people asked if I bought parts in from China...but no, I did it all myself.”
Now lucky to call himself a professional artist and to be "eating from (his) art”, he has always tried to do something different than other artists, which is why he moved to a harder material.
Bin Lahej said he inherited a love for Arabic calligraphy from the UAE's "authentic culture”, and has always wanted to integrate it within his artwork to introduce it to the younger generation.
He also runs the summer camp for kids "More than Art” each year from his own gallery, Marsam Mattar, in Satwa
Creating pieces like this also helped him teach his students indirectly about new approaches to traditional art forms such as calligraphy, he said.
Fezlee Mansor, visiting Dubai on holiday from Malaysia, said while he could not read the calligraphy, he was still able to admire the piece for its beauty.
"I have seen a bit of Arabic art, but this one is slightly unique. It seems to be quite a different sort of Arabic calligraphy. I haven't seen anything like this. It's quite something.”
Also on display in The Dubai Mall is the world's biggest book, highlighting the biography of Prophet Muhammad, along with the ‘The Mahmal,' a mosque curtain manufactured out of Atlantic silk, and gold and silver thread in the 13th century (Hijri) and originally commissioned by Sultan Abdulhamid II. Also featured is the ‘Sitara', a textile made to cover the door of the Kaaba in the holy city of Makkah. This Sitara is one of the most sacred Islamic artefacts, commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Selim III in 1804-1805AD, and once guarded the final destination for all Muslim pilgrims journeying to Makkah as the external curtain of the door of the Kaaba. It is the last surviving Sitara of the imperial.
Educational exhibitions, putting the spotlight on Arabic art, history, culture, and heritage, will also be on display at the mall throughout Ramadan.