UAE artist Shamma Al Amri visited Dallas/Fort Worth during the second stop of the Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates tour around the United States. Read about her experience:
I knew little about this region of America before embarking on this exciting trip. I was ecstatic enough to have my work selected for the Past Forward exhibition, let alone be invited to represent Emirati artists in one of the largest states of the United States: Texas.
It really was an adventure. I was hesitant at the beginning, but we had the warmest welcome from the organizers at Artspace111 and dove straight into a food-for-thought dinner with some of the most distinguished artists in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. Throughout my visit, we explored an overwhelming collection of artworks including many of my personal favorites. I was extremely impressed with collections at state-of-the-art museums, especially the Kimbell Art Museum in Dallas and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Art has an immense capacity to connect people and create a universal language between cultures.
Opening night was really a moment of pride. Seeing the whole collection of artwork by the various generations of artists in the UAE and witnessing the audience’s awe and admiration was very exciting. Moreover, many of the guests knew very little about the UAE and had never met Emiratis before. At that moment, I really experienced how art has an immense capacity to connect people and create a universal language between cultures. The audience and visitors were keen to talk to us – myself, co-curator Noor Al Suwaidi, and Dana Al Marashi, Head of Heritage and Social Affairs at the UAE Embassy – and discuss the work, and we were able to share our stories and experiences. I had the honor of explaining the works of my fellow artists, and with it, the honor of sharing the story of my country.
The following days were filled with activities. I led a pinhole photography workshop at the gallery space. In addition, we also visited and gave talks at various schools around Fort Worth and Dallas. One of the highlights was a workshop we held for kids from Hope Farm, which was extremely delightful and rewarding. We also had the chance to really absorb Texan culture by visiting local restaurants, and on top of all that, enjoy a rodeo show!
Another highlight of my trip was visiting the Ann Ekstrom studio. She warmly welcomed us into her studio and was generous enough to let us use it for hands-on experimentation with printmaking. The energy was great and the print that I produced that day will always act as a beautiful reminder of this experience.