Press Releases



In collaboration with Khatt Foundation

Presentation explores the origins of six of the most influential alphabets in the history of the Middle East substantiated by extensive research

Curated by Dr Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, it features nine newly-commissioned works by artists from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine

Milestone exhibition from Warehouse421 is consistent with its vision to showcase regional artists and narratives

Abu Dhabi – 27 February 2019: Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi’s creative hub for regional artists, presents a milestone new exhibition on March 16th entitled Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts, in collaboration with Khatt Foundation.

Curated by Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, Warehouse421’s brand-new commissioned exhibition featuring specially made artworks, will explore the origins of six of the most influential alphabets in the Middle East; The Phoenician Script (1200 BCE — 100 CE); The Aramaic Script (750 BCE — 600 CE); The Musnad Script (1000 BCE — 400 CE); The Palmyrene Script (100 BCE — 300 CE); The Nabatean Script (250 CE— 450 CE); and The Early Arabic Scripts (6th C – 8th C CE).

Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts features nine newly-commissioned works by artists and designers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. These works will encompass a wide array of disciplines, including drawing, art installations and ceramics, as well as the design of jewellery, textiles, fashion, furniture and objects.

The unique display of Middle Eastern history and culture through design and form, exemplifies Warehouse421’s mission to present narratives that highlight themes relevant to the UAE and the Middle East at large, as well as supporting design and production from regional creatives.

Faisal Al Hassan, Manager of Warehouse421 said: “Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts marks a significant turning point in the evolution of Warehouse421 as a creative institution focused on local and regional storytelling. It marks our most extensive commission of research and development yet, and we are extremely proud to be able to work with such a passionate team of artists, designers and researchers from the region.”

The exhibition’s extensive research included genealogical mapping of Arab East’s alphabetic writing systems and thorough investigations of their history and influence on each other and the world’s alphabetic writing systems, their social, economic, political and cultural relevance. It also underlines the symbiotic relationship between form and function that has underpinned so much creativity throughout human history. This has been conducted by a team of design researchers, under the supervision of Dr Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, consisting of Ranim Al-Halaky, Afra Bin Dhaher, Sheikha Bin Dhaher and Dina Khorchid. The research has served to both frame and inform the content of the newly commissioned works. It is displayed in a brief and highly illustrative way throughout the exhibition, thus bringing history and archaeology into a direct dialogue with contemporary design, in a setting that invites wandering and discovery. This testifies to the rich and multilayered vision of the exhibition.

Al Hassan also said: “Although Nomadic Traces highlights events that occurred centuries ago, its underlying themes still resonate strongly in the world we live in today. At a time of rising nationalism in many parts of the world, the exhibition provides a timely reminder that societies throughout history have benefited, sometimes in unexpected ways, from interacting with other people and cultures, rather than reflexively resisting outside influences.”

Combining elements of archaeology, history, art and design, it highlights the extent to which economic trade, cultural exchange and ultimately, human interaction, were all powerful accelerants for the dissemination and development of writing systems across the region.

Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, Curator of Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts said: “The Middle East has been a cradle of several civilisations, religions, languages, and traditions. The story of written scripts from this region testifies to this cultural wealth, diversity and fluidity. We cannot imagine a world without text today, we are totally dependent on written information in all aspect of our contemporary mobile (nomadic) way of life.

“Nomadic Traces takes the alphabetic linear writing system off the page and into the very fabric of everyday life. It is layered ina way that invites the viewer to wander and discover, presenting historical material in an approach that makes it accessible to a non-specialist audience that we hope to engage in learning about the foundations of their cultural heritage.”

She concluded: “Partnering with Warehouse421 matches the Khatt Foundation’s goals of working with influential and developing cultural institutions that share our same vision for stimulating cultural production, critical research and contemporary design developments in the Arab region. This exhibition which marks the start of this collaboration will hopefully be the start of other future projects and educational experiences.”

The artworks and artists on display at Nomadic Traces: Journey of Arabian Scripts include:

- Yad, Margherita Abi Hanna

- The Sun Never Sets on the Empire, Sarah Alagroobi

- From the Ashes and Into the Fire, Xeina AlMalki

- And We Adorned The Nearest Heaven With Lamps, Nasser Al Salem

- Typographic Souvenirs of Arabia (working title), Rasha Dakkak

- Maktoob, Nadine Kanso

- Silk Rogue Kimabaya, Milia Maroun

- If Speech Is Silver, Khalid Mezaina

- Markab, Hamza Al-Omari


Furthermore, Prof. Nasser Rabbat, Venetia Porter, - and Sheikh Salem Al-Qassimi have contributed to the curatorial vision of the exhibition, through insightful essays that tackled topics such as Recovering a Fuller Arab Heritage, Writing within the material culture of Islam, Design trends and issues of cultural identity in the Arab World and diaspora and Relevant Graphic Design in Communicating Regional and Cultural Narratives.

Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts opens from March 16th – July 28th 2019 at Warehouse421. For more information please click here