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Fatima Al Romaithi: Crafting memories through art

Fatima Al Romaithi: Crafting memories through art
19 May 2024 20:26


In the bustling art scene of the UAE, emerging artist Fatima Al Romaithi stands out with her unique approach to storytelling through still-life drawings and sculptures.

Born in Abu Dhabi in 1998, Al Romaithi has carved a niche for herself by exploring themes of childhood, memory, and the passage of time in her work.

She is not just an artist; she is also a storyteller whose canvas speaks of times past and the sensory experiences that define a generation, inviting the audience to reminisce, share, and question the joys of childhood in an increasingly complex world.


  • Fatima Al Romaithi: Crafting memories through art


Her latest exhibition, part of the 2024 MFA Graduate Show at 421 Arts Campus, reflects on the nostalgia of a simpler past and makes one ponder the rapidly changing dynamics of youth in the digital era.

"I want the viewers to realise that our childhoods are changing," she said in an interview with Aletihad, pointing out that children today are often quieted with gadgets, a stark contrast to the outdoor games and sneaky treats of her own youth.

The essence of Al Romaithi's work is her ability to transport viewers back in time using everyday objects and foods as conduits of memory, she explained.

Her current exhibition delves into the sensory experiences of taste and smell, which vividly recall childhood mischief related to food.

"Using foods and objects as windows to the past, I revisit and reconstruct shared moments from my own childhood," Al Romaithi said, adding that her art pieces represent a mix of personal and communal experiences that echo a shared heritage, fostering a sense of connection among her audience.


  • Fatima Al Romaithi: Crafting memories through art


As you walk through Al Romaithi's exhibition, you are immediately drawn into a vivid tableau of her childhood memories, expressed through bold and colourful representations.

The space is dotted with oversized candies and wrappers, patterns that mimic the traditional furnishings of her childhood home, drawings rich in hues, and even a childhood dress, cleverly stuffed with candy wrappers, illustrating the act of hiding these treats - a common childhood mischief.

"These foods were considered unhealthy, or as my grandmother would call it 'saqum,' which translates to illness. We would only be allowed to enjoy them occasionally, and we would have to wait for our parents to give us permission to do so. That did not stop us from having them more often than we should have," she explained in her artist statement.

Each element of the exhibition is thoughtfully placed to evoke nostalgia, bringing to life the playful and sometimes sneaky joys of a youth spent in the UAE, creating a multisensory experience that connects the past with the present.

"To this day, these are some of our best memories. Our realities have changed, and it coincided with rapid changes in the UAE. The dukkan we bought the sweets from exists under a different name now: baqala. But our memories serve as evidence to the existence of the dukkan," she added.

Initially focused on black and white drawings, Fatima has recently embraced colour and textiles, incorporating sewing into her artwork - a medium she once resisted.

This transition marked a significant shift in her artistic expression, driven by her peers' encouragement to explore beyond her comfort zone.

"My peers have been trying to push me to get out of that black-and-white mood. I was resisting, resisting, resisting. And then I said - you know what, let me just give it a shot and see what happens. I never thought that I would actually enjoy such a change," she admitted, adding that she's very happy she ventured out.

Moreover, Al Romaithi's art is not just about looking back but also about sustainability and innovation. A hiccup with a fabricator while preparing her latest exhibition led her to repurpose old materials, turning them into lively art pieces that better matched her vibrant theme.

"When I initially saw them, they were so matte and so lifeless - they didn't really work with the colours of the exhibition. I ended up having to think quickly on my feet," she revealed, pointing to an old tyre she turned into a doughnut, as well as foam from pool floaties she used to create lollipops.

She highlighted that this aspect of her work aligns with the broader sustainability goals of the UAE, showcasing her adaptability and commitment to environmentally conscious art. "I want to support that in as many ways as I can," she said.

After completing her BA in Art and Art History, with a minor in Engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi in 2020, Al Romaithi has actively participated in several notable exhibitions both locally and internationally.

Her recent engagements include exhibitions like Flux at Project Space NYUAD, Peripheries at Temporary Art Centre in the Netherlands, and Bound at Bayt AlMamzar in Dubai.

As Al Romaithi finalises her MFA journey, she remains committed to teaching and inspiring future generations.

Looking to the future, she envisions her work reaching a global audience, allowing her to share her cultural heritage and personal artistic vision on an international stage.

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