by Ayesha Shaikh
  • 2 minute read
  • July 03, 2019
It Takes Three: Meet The Emirati Artists Behind Art Collective Bait 15

Step inside Bait 15 and you will be immediately drawn to its austere simplicity. Located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Zafaranah area, the artist-run studio and exhibition space is spread across a villa, imbued with earthy charm and filled with art and art supplies. Inside the space, creative chaos abounds; paint bottles crowd the shelves and floors, blank canvases rest against a wall, and art equipment is strewn around a light wood table with a few affixed to a storage rack.

It is the culmination of the efforts of artists Afra Al Dhaheri, Maitha Abdalla and Hashel Al Lamki, who founded the collective in 2017 with the idea of creating a space to synergize and connect with other creatives. “We had our own studios, but we wanted to build a community and be around other artists,” says Abdalla. “We wanted a space that was accessible and easy for others to visit – one that is open to curators and anyone else who wants to see our work,” she adds. “There are many top-down institutions but those like ours have a bottom-up approach. We have made our way up from a grass-roots level,” explains Al Lamki.

An artwork by Emirati artist Mohamed Al Mazrouei on display at Bait 15

The collective’s appeal lies in its contrasting cultural production; where Al Dhaheri’s works range from drawings to installations harkening back to her experiences growing up in Abu Dhabi, Abdalla’s mixed media oeuvre surveys the notions of memory, travel and human interaction, and Al Lamki’s multidisciplinary practice offers insight into the UAE’s rapid industrial and architectural rise focusing on sustainability and social innovation.

Before joining forces for Bait 15, the trio had crossed paths as participants of the Salama bin Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship. Run by Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, this is a 10-month artistic education and development program that supports about 15 emerging UAE-based artists each year. Bait 15 is among the participants at UAE Now at Art Dubai 2019, a new segment that reflects the organic nature of independent local artist-run platforms. It has also provided space for Art Dubai’s Residents program this year.

For aspiring creatives, all three artists hold that a myriad of opportunities awaits. “I would advise artists would be to produce as much as possible, as there is a notion that some only create artworks for specific shows. The three of us are very consistent in producing art whether or not we have any exhibitions lined up,” shares Al Lamki, who studied on scholarship in the BFA program at Parsons the New School for Design In New York City in 2007.

Creative chaos: A detail of the workspace at Bait 15

Abdalla highlights the importance of community building. “Talk to different artists about your work. Do not limit yourself – be out there, create a community and a be a part of it.” And Al Dhaheri refreshingly adds, “We only make each other stronger.” Bait15

Photography By Aasiya Jagadeesh

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