Sarah Alagroobi – AUGUST 2014

By Kate Hazell

With ambitious plans to put Emirati's on the international art stage, Sarah Alagroobi is a name you need to remember.

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Inspired by Dubai's ever-evolving and fast-paced cultural landscape, the bubbly 24-year-old, who has started opening dialogues and conversations about cultural issues through her work, wants to inspire other Emirati's to nurture their own creativity. She embodies the young, exciting talent striving to eradicate steriotypes and push boundaries in the region. A film-maker, artist and graphic designer, who currently resides in Sharjah, Sarah is fast gaining attention because of her fearless approach to social taboos in her work. We wanted to hear more…

 

What are you working on right now?

 

I'm working on a furniture collection and a few collaborations with some fashion designers and architects.

 

Why the arts? Who inspired you?

 

I have always been involved in the arts in one-way or another. From a young age I knew I wanted to be an artist/designer and felt that it was important to show the rest of the world that the Middle East has something to offer.

 

Tell us about the art scene in the UAE?

 

I think it is a great hub for nourishing young talent. The UAE has no limits so anything is possible. A friend told me that the UAE is the only country in the world that you can visit where you come into the country, leave, and come back after a month and the architecture, design, art, atmosphere is totally different to how you left it. What other big city can do that?

 

Tell us more about challenging social taboos?

 

I am often described as a person with a very highbrow design aesthetic— in other words, most of my work is quite controversial. My first short narrative film The Forbidden Fruit achieved regional acclaim at its debut in the Dubai International Film Festival and the Gulf Film Festival and I think the main reason was because it dealt with social taboos that exist in Emirati culture. I also created an Emirati infographic that depicted the social stigmas that exist within tribes through marriage. My designs reflect a curiosity or desire to answer a question, regardless if it is controversial or not.

 

How does living in the Middle East impact your work?

 

Dubai is the perfect location to nourish young talent, it is still developing its own identity to the rest of the world, so in essence, it is still a blank canvas waiting to be explored. The region plays a large role in how the work not only is being produced, but how it is contextualised and interpreted. Emirati society is changing in a really positive way and people are branching out and shedding light on situations that have never been discussed through the creativity of art and design. But on a negative side, not everyone is ready for that change which can be a challenge.

 

What do you strive to achieve?

 

As a burgeoning young Emirati, I have tried to make a name for myself in the city in the field of Art, and that has led various opportunities and acknowledgement for my daring approach to social issues. I am a citisen of the world and was raised in and out of the UAE as the daughter of an Ambassador to countries in the Arab world, Europe and Asia. And with those experiences, bring something culturally eclectic, through Middle Eastern and Western values, so I would love to achieve international recognition as one of the leading artist/designers in the field, so that I may inspire Emiratis like myself to achieve their goals.

 

What's your favourite thing about living in the region?

 

I have lived in the UAE for about 6 years, I have a degree in Visual Communication at the American University of Sharjah. But I was born and raised abroad my entire life. Having a balance between Western and Middle Eastern values really diversified my approach to art and design in the UAE. I loved being educated in the UAE for my undergrad because it taught me to understand the content, the purpose and the audience of my work on a more empathetic level.

 

How do you like to spend your time?

 

I mostly spend my time at the beach when it is not too hot. When you are a local, you often stay clear of touristic hot spots because they have no novelty.

 

Where do you like to shop? Any hidden secrets we should know about?

 

There is an art store near Wafi that I often go to, to pick up paints, canvas and brushes which is much better than any store I have been to in Europe. Mainly because you can find anything you need there for your painting pleasure and not that many people go there. I bought a sketchbook there recently because I was about to go on holiday and I realised I stopped drawing and needed to get back into it.

 

Where do you like to eat?

 

I'd rather spend time at small restaurants and hidden treasures like Ostadi in Bur Dubai, Al Mallah and the Pakistani restaurant in Satwa, Ravi.

 

What's your latest obsession in the city?

 

I'm obsessed with the chicken Shawarma wrapped in a cheese manakish at Mallah restaurant, the white truffle tagliatelle at La Serre and Home Bakery’s chewy melts in Jumeirah

 

Who do you think is contributing to the cultural scene in Dubai and why?

 

I have been involved with WATAD Magazine, it is an architecture and design publication that was founded in Dubai. To have a magazine, through beautiful writing and mouth watering content, that is relevant to the region, with gorgeous imagery to compliment it, is exactly what the cultural society of Dubai needs.

 

Any tips for surviving the summer?

 

Buy a portable fan and use it. All day, every day.

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www.sarahalagroobi.com