From Saudi Arabia's answer to Banksy and a tongue-in-cheek recreation of a street kiosk in Cairo to a sculptural illustration symbolising forced compliance to social rules, the winning entries for this year's Create & Inspire competition were as varied as the participants themselves.
The 10 winners from the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia represent the voice of the GCC's youth. As their prize, they will travel to the UK for two weeks at the end of August to further their ideas by working alongside other artists.
"It is really a dream for me to be offered this chance," says Asma Alahmad, one of four UAE-based winners.
"I didn't think I would win," says Alia Lootah, another winner.
"A trip like this will push me to my limits," says Nour Abuhayeh, a 24-year-old Palestinian from Dubai. "I think being in a place out of my comfort zone surrounded by different people will force new ideas out of me and that is what is exciting me about it. I'm sure I will get to something that I didn't know I had in me."
Create & Inspire, now on its third year, is a competition set up by the Crossway Foundation, a London-based arts charity founded by Stephen Stapleton, who later started the Edge of Arabia initiative to boost the development of Arab art in the Gulf. Sponsored by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI), which also supports regional art, the competition is meant to unearth hidden talent among young people. It is open to 16- to 25-year-olds in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Participants must submit work under a theme - this year's was Public Art: Re-imagining Your Community. Stapleton, the chief executive of the Crossway Foundation, says that enhancing communities through art has become an increasingly talked about topic in the Gulf. "Against this backdrop, we challenged applicants to come up with a creative campaign to inspire their communities and make a positive difference in their environment," he explains.
The competition was launched in March and, in June, panels of judges in Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha and Dubai interviewed 32 shortlisted entries. The results were announced earlier this month and preparations are now under way for the trip in August.
Fady Jameel, the president of ALJCI International, says that such trips will not only help the winning artists but also their communities. "Supporting initiatives like these lies at the heart of what we at ALJCI believe in, to foster the career of young artists, encouraging them to develop their talents further by exposing them to new experiences and empowering them to share what they have learnt, thus enriching their communities once back home."
Winning entries included drawing, graphic design, installation, sculpture and video pieces. Mohanna Tayeb, a 23-year-old studying at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, was selected for her drawing Cut Your Hair. "I am still searching for my identity and trying to discover it via symbols in my drawings," she says. "Cutting your hair is a social obligation in the Gulf and it is just one example of what differentiates mankind from other species: freedom of choice. Communities create restrictions and boundaries in order to avoid people escaping customs and traditions. I feel, however, that this system destroys the creativity in any community."
Another winner from Saudi Arabia is Abdullah Alshehri. The 22-year-old is a street artist from Riyadh, whose work makes obvious reference to Banksy, the UK graffiti artist known for his satirical and subversive work.
"Whenever I do a new piece of street art, I take a photo and share it on social media," Alshehri says. "This enables all of my followers to comment, share and like the work I do. But it is also a way of providing criticism. You can't create this type of dialogue on the streets."