by Ayesha Shaikh
  • 2 minute read
  • July 21, 2019
Meet The Young Omani Artist Who Has Invented An Eco-Friendly Varnish Using A National Treasure

In the quiet Mahdah province of Buraimi in Oman, a young artist and inventor has risen to the fore. This is Salim bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, who at just age 24 last year, developed a special kind of varnish, a liquid commonly used to give artworks a durable finish and one that is an artist’s greatest friend and foe.

The idea came up two years ago after he was hospitalized for respiratory disease due to constant exposure to varnish and its toxic emissions. “It made me think I should use a natural substance from Oman to create a product that would not have the harmful effects of traditional varnish,” says Al Kaabi. After 20 failed experiments, he finally had his shining moment.

A prototype of the machine created by Al Kaabi

The resulting ‘Lubanium’ varnish has been made using Oman’s world-famous frankincense, an aromatic gum resin that diffuses the varnish’s toxic fumes, which are often associated with causing drowsiness, headaches and breathing problems. Having studied chemical engineering at the Caledonian College of Engineering in Seeb, Oman, Al Kaabi created a machine with an efficient and time-saving automated station that produces 150ml of frankincense-fused varnish in one go without any human intervention.

Al Kaabi’s invention serves to protect artists and their art, owing to its organic, environment-friendly and non-volatile composition. It is also suitable for both oil and acrylic paint. “Art has led me to invention, and the integration of art with engineering is an important aspect for me and anyone interested in the arts and science,” he comments. Equally attuned to the principles of modern technology and Oman’s traditional fabric, ‘Lubanium’ is Al Kaabi’s labor of love. But it has also paved the way for him to receive international recognition.

Salim Al Kaabi

In 2017, he participated at the second Falling Walls Conference, a global forum that recognizes the efforts of creative thinkers and innovators, in Berlin, Germany. Al Kaabi had long been passionate about the arts, but forayed into the industry in 2015 after he pursued an education at the United Kingdom’s coveted Glasgow School of Art. His mixed media works range from painting to sculpture, with a focus on portraiture and abstraction.

For ‘Lubanium’, Al Kaabi applied for a patent at the Saudi Patent Office in November 2017 and hopes to receive it soon. With eyes set on marketing the product both locally and globally, Al Kaabi plans on participating at the trade fair Index 2020 in April next year and presenting the global artistic community with an invaluable gift from Oman.


Photography By Aasiya Jagadeesh

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