Wonder walls

Two UAE-based street artists talk to us about inspiring kids to unleash their creative energy and feel the positive power of the paintbrush

Wonder walls

Pablo Picasso once said: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” and it’s exactly this spirit of creativity (and a touch of rebellion) that is transforming walls, buildings and communities across the city ahead of this month’s Abu Dhabi festival. UAE-born-and-raised artist Fathima Mohiuddin is one such active street artist.

“I always loved painting large because it’s so gestural, sometimes aggressive, sometimes like dancing – I was an angry teenager and it was a great outlet for me,” she reveals to us. “I painted my bedroom walls when I was a teenager and started doing huge drawings on paper in high school and university.

“When I lived in Toronto and in London, I started coming into contact with street art and just loved that this work was accessible to anyone – that you encountered it in public spaces rather than purposefully visiting a gallery, that it pleasantly interrupted your routine power-walk down the street, and that it was large enough to engulf you sometimes and make you wonder how it possibly got there!”

Which probably explains the universal appeal of street and graffiti art – it’s huge, it’s bold, it grabs your attention and gets everyone talking.

UAE-based street and graffiti artist, Ramy Elzagawy, agrees. “I started my first [piece] as part of the longest graffiti art wall, which was awarded a Guinness World Record in 2014 in Jumeirah, and that was my first experience with spray paint.

“From then on, every wall was another addition to my skills and I still challenge myself more with each wall and each project. I find it to be the most suitable way to express my passion and energy for art and life,” he says.

And it is this freedom of expression we must nurture and encourage with our children, Mohiuddin explains. “Children have a certain amount of untainted and pure, innate, creative energy. It may not mean drawing or painting will ever be their thing, but to be able to access and mobilise that part of their brain, that way of thinking and seeing and being free-thinking is really important,” she says. “Learning to imagine and holding on to a certain amount of imaginative freedom, which you lose as you get older is, I think, part of building an identity.”

So, where does this inspiration all start? “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing,” says Elzagawy. “I found that art was a way for me to express my feelings and found inspiration in books, mostly from the era of famous artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Michelangelo.”

It’s crucial that us, as parents, build on this early passion and give our kids as many opportunities to paint, build, draw and explore their own creativity as possible. So get out there with your mini artists, walk the streets, take a stash of sketch pads (no unofficial vandalism, please!), and see where the pencil takes you.
For inspiration, visit Ramy Elzagawy at www.instagram.com/t.ra.my and Fathima Mohiuddin at www.fats.ink.

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