As part of its mission to support cultural diplomacy through co-productions and collaborations, Abu Dhabi Festival presents Emirati artist Aisha Juma in “Beyond Belief”, an exhibition bringing together a variety of artworks from more than 35 artists. This is the first of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Festival’s events abroad and is the result of a cultural partnership between the Festival and Haus Kunst Mitte.
The inauguration was attended by Her Excellency Hafsa Al Ulama, UAE Ambassador to Germany, and His Excellency Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s Ambassador to Germany.
In her speech at the event, Her Excellency Hafsa Al Ulama praised the strong cultural ties between the UAE and Germany, and commended Abu Dhabi Festival’s commitment to participating in art exhibitions and festivals in Germany. She added that ADF’s sponsorship of “Beyond Belief” reflects Abu Dhabi’s role in promoting art worldwide. Art delivers a message of peace and harmony among nations, concluded the ambassador, in a language that all people can understand, nurturing a better future free from intolerance and prejudice.
H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and Founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival said: “Abu Dhabi Festival returns to Berlin Art Week, presenting Emirati artist Aisha Juma’s work at the “Beyond Belief” exhibition in our cultural partnership with the Haus Kunst Mitte. Juma’s installation in Beyond Belief is an invitation to open the door to a new future based on love and compassion that will lead to greater understanding and dialogue among all people.”
Her Excellency continued: “Our support for Beyond Belief continues Abu Dhabi Festival’s long history of building bridges, forging international collaborations and nurturing cultural exchange through art. As the world celebrates the first anniversary of the UAE Abraham Accords, the exhibition looks beyond spiritual differences. Beyond Belief shows that art can build upon friendships by exploring the similarities and differences that enrich us and unite humanity in tolerance, respect and peace.” I am grateful to H.E. Hafsa Al Ulama, UAE Ambassador to Germany, for her support, esteemed presence and words of cultural harmony, as well as curator Britta Adler and everyone who made this exhibition possible.
The artists exhibited in “Beyond Belief” offer different points of access into the world of spirituality: some invite us to dive into mystical experiences, some deal with spirituality as a stage for identity, and still others critically reflect upon the societal implications of spiritual practice or question.
Also included are artworks that represent earlier waves of spiritual interest in the 1960s and the 1980s, including works by Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, Mary Bauermeister, George Braques and Antoni Tàpies.
In celebrated video artist Pipilotti Rist's work, colour unlocks extrasensory dimensions, accompanied by visual iconography that bridges the corporeal and the spiritual. Ayelet Carmi and Meirav Heiman's video is the re-telling of a historical tale using the language of mystical metaphors. Also featured in the exhibition are works that engage with spirituality as an expression of identity.
Fatma Shanan’s paintings engage with the traditions and motifs of her Druze heritage. French-Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah incorporates imagery from different religious traditions, as does Mikhal Gamzou, whose pillar-sculptures are inscribed with psalms found in both the Bible and the Torah. An interest in unifying the classic iconography of mysticism and esotericism associated with different religions is further explored in Italian artist Enrico Pietracci’s work.
The exhibition also includes critical perspectives on the social manifestations of spiritual practice. Amrita Dhillon’s paintings consider the complicated legacies of god-men, and the dangers of coercion and dominance associated with many spiritual groups.
Cornelia Renz explores the power of cultural images, especially religious symbols, and their influence on our perception of reality. Saralisa Volm’s interactive installation questions the tenets of modern spiritual practices.
The show also includes artists whose work celebrates the contemplative, intuitive and inward-looking aspects of spirituality. Halina Hildebrand’s layered photographs reflect her interest in parallel realities, and the power of nature – particularly forests – to sooth the soul. Peter Wilde’s work is a testament to the personal pursuit of spiritual experience, influenced by his Christian faith. Aisha Juma’s work deals with higher consciousness, DNA, and quantum reality.
Her contemporary “intuitive drawings” will be juxtaposed with 120-year-old “automated drawings” from the archive of the spiritistic Edelweiss Verbund – in which the world-renowned Hilma af Klint was an active member – as well as an object and a collage by Mary Bauermeister (the so-called “mother of fluxus”) who has worked on the topic of spirituality for more than half a century.
Abu Dhabi Festival is supported by its main sponsor Mubadala Investment Company (Mubadala), and its energy partner GS Energy.
Founded in 2004, Abu Dhabi Festival was initially a small arts and culture platform that soon graduated to one of the world’s premiere annual events. Held in the UAE, it celebrates artistic and creative excellence, and promotes the role of music and the arts in bringing nations closer. It also promotes Abu Dhabi as a leading global hub for creativity and as an Emirati beacon for respect and tolerance.
Strengthened by a growing network of 30 international partners, the festival brings audiences together each year to enjoy world premieres and exclusive commissions in the UAE and around the world.
Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation
Founded in 1996, ADMAF is one of the oldest not-for-profit cultural organisations in the Arabian Gulf. Pioneering new artistic practices, it seeks to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue and inspire a renewed interest in the creativity of the UAE and Arab world.
Often in partnership with leading national and international institutions, it delivers multidisciplinary initiatives for people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities through the Abu Dhabi Festival, year-round youth platforms and community programmes.