IN THE UAE

It’s a great day for new be­gin­nings. On Ak­shaya Tri­tiya, Fri­day talks to a few of the UAE’s change­mak­ers – from a trio set­ting up a unique car rental com­pany to a duo sell­ing af­ford­able art.

Friday - - Contents -

It is an an­nual date when cou­ples wish to get mar­ried, long jour­neys are tra­di­tion­ally started and men go out to buy gold in the hope of good for­tune. And, this year, that date – as dic­tated by the lu­nar cy­cle – falls to­day: Fri­day April 28. The In­dian fes­ti­val of Ak­shaya Tri­tiya is be­ing cel­e­brated across the UAE and all around the world even as we speak.

It is known as a golden time for eter­nal suc­cess. Any­thing which is started be­fore mid­night – whether that be open­ing a new busi­ness, try­ing a new hobby, be­gin­ning a new re­la­tion­ship or sim­ply hav­ing a new idea – is, tra­di­tion dic­tates, des­tined to be pros­per­ous and fruit­ful.

And, whether you cel­e­brate Ak­shaya Tri­tiya or not, there’s surely some­thing in­spir­ing about that.

Fri­day cer­tainly thinks so. And, as such, to­day we toast the oc­ca­sion by bring­ing you a se­lec­tion of UAE res­i­dents who are all fol­low­ing their dreams and, from an in­de­pen­dent cinema to a healthy ice cream, launch­ing some­thing new and ex­cit­ing in 2017.

ORIG­I­NAL RIDES

In 2015, while in the US, Syl­vain Per­ret found him­self in need of a car. In­stead of go­ing to a hire com­pany, how­ever, he looked on­line and found a spe­cial­ist web­site where peo­ple rented out their spare ve­hi­cles.

‘It was like Airbnb but for cars,’ says the 37-year-old French tech en­tre­pre­neur based in Busi­ness Bay, Dubai.

‘It was ex­actly what I needed on that trip. I re­mem­ber think­ing this kind of app would be per­fect for Dubai.’

So, he roped in a cou­ple of Dubai-based tech part­ners – that’s Ahmad Arab and Up­manyu Misra – and the trio set one up them­selves.

Rydr will of­fi­cially go live this sum­mer, and it could well trans­form Dubai’s car econ­omy. It will link peo­ple who want to bor­row a mo­tor with peo­ple who want to lend theirs out.

‘So, on the one hand,’ ex­plains Syl­vain, ‘it will pro­vide tourists and tran­sient work­ers with an af­ford­able way of ac­cess­ing tem­po­rary ve­hi­cles. And on the other, it will al­low res­i­dents who have spare cars sat in garages to mon­e­tise their ve­hi­cles.

‘But it’s not lim­ited to those groups. There’ll be a whole range of cars on there. If you’re a guy look­ing to rent out a re­ally nice set of wheels for the week­end or a job in­ter­view or even a ro­man­tic evening, you’ll be able to log on and find that.’

The cost of rent­ing could be any­thing from Dh70 for a re­li­able little num­ber up to Dh1,500 for a high-per­for­mance model. All in­sur­ance will be au­to­matic. Any fines charged to own­ers while their ve­hi­cles are be­ing rented will be paid by Rydr and then clawed back from the renter.

‘The web­site goes live in late April and we’d like to have 300 cars on there,’ says Syl­vain. And af­ter that? ‘We’re am­bi­tious and we’d love to roll it out across the Mid­dle East. There’s no rea­son why this can’t be a suc­cess all over the re­gion.’

‘The SLATE will be com­pletely var­ied,’ says BUTHAINA. ‘We want to IN­SPIRE and en­lighten. We want PEO­PLE to come here, WATCH the films, feel part of a COM­MU­NITY and take part in con­ver­sa­tions’

A FILM FIRST

For three years, Buthaina Kazim has wan­dered Dubai with a metaphor­i­cal screen on her back and pro­jec­tor in hand. She is the Emi­rati cul­ture-lover be­hind Cinema Akil, the UAE’s only no­madic cinema.

Since 2014, she and co­founder Mishaal Al Ger­gawi have show­cased art­house and in­de­pen­dent films in a va­ri­ety of un­usual venues around the city. Think art gal­leries in Al Quoz, bas­ket­ball courts in Dubai De­sign District and court­yards in Al Fahidi His­tor­i­cal Neigh­bour­hood. ‘The first time we did it was at The Third Line gallery,’ ex­plains Buthaina, a one-time cul­tural projects man­ager from Jumeirah. ‘We set up some bean­bags, had some pop­corn and hoped peo­ple would come along. And they did. I think they re­ally un­der­stood what we were try­ing to do: it was about cinema not just as con­tent but ex­pe­ri­ence.’

Now, she and Mishaal, 36, also from Jumeirah, are about to take things one step fur­ther. In au­tumn this year, Cinema Akil will open its first per­ma­nent venue.

A one-time ware­house in Alserkal Av­enue is be­ing trans­formed into a two-screen com­plex. It will be the first in­de­pen­dent art­house cinema, says Buthaina, in the GCC.

‘The UAE has one of the largest mul­ti­plex dis­tri­bu­tion per capita in the en­tire Mid­dle East,’ she. ‘But we don’t have any­thing ded­i­cated to these kind of films. I just thought that had to change. A city this rich in cul­ture and di­ver­sity should have a cinema that was of­fer­ing some­thing equally rich and di­verse. And the pop-ups sell out so of­ten we know the ap­petite was there.’ Screen­ings will take place seven days a week, and au­di­ences should ex­pect Mid­dle Eastern and in­ter­na­tional dra­mas, doc­u­men­taries, cult movies and oc­ca­sional clas­sics.

‘The slate will be com­pletely var­ied,’ says Buthaina. ‘We want to in­spire and en­lighten. We want peo­ple to come here, watch the films, feel part of a com­mu­nity and take part in con­ver­sa­tions.’

The first screen­ing is set for Oc­to­ber, with de­tails to be an­nounced at cin­e­maakil.com.

As for those who pre­fer their films in un­usual venues? Don’t worry – the pop-up screen­ings will con­tinue even af­ter the new venue opens.

NEW START WITH ART

Peter Good­win has been in the fine art in­dus­try for 13 years but when he talks about its elitism, he doesn’t hold back. Too of­ten, he reck­ons, gal­leries – and the works they dis­play – are in­ac­ces­si­ble, in­com­pre­hen­si­ble and ex­pen­sive. ‘In Dubai, I hear peo­ple talk about af­ford­able art,’ says the 34 year old, who runs Mes­taria, a cul­tural man­age­ment com­pany. ‘And by “af­ford­able” they mean $3,000 [Dh11,000] a paint­ing. I mean, re­ally?’ He has, he hopes, a so­lu­tion. This month, he and busi­ness part­ner Rami Al Awssy are launch­ing the Af­fiche Gallery, an on­line and pop-up ex­hi­bi­tion space they hope will take fine art to the Mid­dle East masses.

It will ex­hibit around six works each by an ini­tial ros­ter of 10 highly re­garded or up-and­com­ing re­gional and global cre­atives, in­clud­ing Iraqi cal­lig­ra­pher Wis­sam Shawkat and Bahraini painter Ab­bas Al Mo­sawi. But here’s the real USP: the work will be printed in high-qual­ity, lim­ited edi­tion poster for­mat with just 99 of each avail­able.

‘The lim­ited num­ber makes them col­lectable and the qual­ity makes them de­sir­able,’ ex­plains

‘The LIM­ITED num­ber makes them COL­LECTABLE and the QUAL­ITY makes them de­sir­able. But, be­cause we’re not just SELL­ING one of each, we can make the work AF­FORD­ABLE too’

Peter, who is from the UK orig­i­nally but lives in JLT. ‘Prices will start at Dh250.’

‘I was go­ing to join the army be­fore I was of­fered the chance to work in this in­dus­try, and I’ve spent most of my life since try­ing to break down bar­ri­ers. That’s what this gallery is all about.’

The ini­tial plan is for the web­site (theaf­fichegallery.com) to go live at the start of May with the pop-up ap­pear­ing at events and fes­ti­vals twice a month across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It made its de­but at last month’s DIFC Art Nights event.

Rami, who also runs ING Cre­atives, an events and net­work­ing com­pany, said: ‘At that first event, peo­ple were say­ing how it felt like a cross be­tween some­thing cool and ac­ces­si­ble and a high-end gallery which is ex­actly what we wanted.’

By the end of the year, they hope to have 100 artists on their books – mean­ing a choice of 600 works for buy­ers.

PHOTOS BY ANAS THACHARAPADIKKAL AND AIZA CASTILLO-DOMINGO

Cinema Akil’s per­ma­nent venue will be the first in­de­pen­dent art­house cinema in the GCC, says Buthaina Kazim

Rami Al Awssy and Peter Good­win are try­ing to break down bar­ri­ers and make works of art af­ford­able for all

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