The efforts of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi to foster economic, cultural and social development within the emirate culminated this year with the first Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival. Organized by the Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, the festival featured the talents of 26 local artists in a celebration of filmmaking and the fine arts.
The festival included exhibits and receptions at the RAK National Museum as well as film screenings at the Grand Cinema at Manar Mall. Honored guests included Academy Award-winning director Cynthia Wade and United Arab Emirates-born actor Mansoor Al Feeli.
The popular three-day festival held in March 2013 symbolizes the growth and development the arts in Ras Al Khaimah. With its long history dating back to the third century, the emirate has taken great efforts to preserve its historical and cultural heritage. A fine arts festival spotlighting talent from RAK and other parts of the UAE is a natural progression to the focus of Sheikh Saud on the people of the emirate as a valuable natural resource.
RAK Schools Join in Encouraging Future Artists
The development of the arts in RAK is apparent in its schools’ curriculum. For example, RAK Academy Secondary School offers students in years 7, 8 and 9 the opportunity to build and improve their skills in such areas as painting, collage, printing and mixed media. Students have the chance to continue their arts education through a two-year course culminating with an internationally recognized certificate in secondary education.
Emirate Attracting World Renowned Artists
It’s not just locals who appreciate the history and growth of fine arts in the emirate. Artists from outside the UAE and the region have taken notice of RAK’s culture of fine arts. For example, 69-year-old French artist Jean-Claude Novaro saw the hospitality and environment of RAK as the perfect place to move his glass-blowing studio. World-renowned as the “king of glass,” Novaro signed a three-year agreement with RAK Ceramics to create new designs in his own factory and to teach glass blowing to residents of the UAE.
Where other glass blowers shape glass on a marver, a stone or cast-iron plate, Novaro uses his hands (protected by wet newspapers) to shape and cool the glass. His work has been displayed in the Royal Treasures Gallery in Dubai and in galleries and exhibits throughout the world. Some of his creations include a seven-foot tall clown, haute couture bottles and pieces that make use of the black, red, green and white from the UAE flag.
Modern Artisans Discovering RAK
A potter from Glasgow is hoping to revive an ancient art form in RAK. Ruth Impey is based in Abu Dhabi, but journeyed to the emirate in search of a local source for clay. According to Impey, most of the clay used to create pottery in the UAE is imported from Europe. Her journey to Wadi Haqeel introduced her to the last remnants of an ancient pottery industry that thrived in RAK because of the clay deposits, which still exist today. Impey hopes to revive the tradition of producing pottery from local clay to remind locals of their heritage and history.
Future of the Arts in the Emirate
The organizers of the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival were encouraged by the success and positive response to their first effort. Organizers have already begun planning for next year’s festival and discussing ways to make it grow.