I Heart Sharjah: Maraya Art Centre (Part 1)

Maraya Art Centre

Many of you are writers, artists, bloggers, students, or entrepreneurs on a budget. You work wherever your laptop takes you and are not anchored to an office. While it’s empowering to be your own boss and not have to punch in a timecard each day, working from home can sometimes be quite isolating. I’m on a never-ending quest to find the perfect place to write in the UAE. I was over the moon to learn that the Centre’s first floor is home to the Maraya Community Centre, a perfectly free library and creative space to access both year round and around the clock (including late into the evening). Although anyone can use the space, membership and use of the wireless network is a very reasonable 30AED annually.

The Book Shelter’s library branch at Maraya Community Centre

The Book Shelter’s library branch at Maraya Community Centre

The Community Centre is located on the building’s first floor and The Maraya Video Archive sits just outside the entrance. I could get lost for hours in the short films, animation, and artistic statements available here from established artists like Larissa Sansour, Abdel Nasser Gharem, and Yousef Nabil. Just inside the Community Centre the entire family can curl up on a colorful traditional couch in a library initiative created by The Book Shelter, an Emirati initiative that focuses on making books accessible to the public for free. Donate, borrow, or share a book here.

Communal tables for creative use at Maraya Community Centre

Communal tables for creative use at Maraya Community Centre

There are a variety of long tables, cubicles, and chairs to work from. It’s not as stuffy silent as a library but not as loud as a café either. Best of all, you (or your children) can take breaks from working to participate in art workshops covering everything from animation and comics to Arabic calligraphy and paper quilling.

Maraya Community Centre’s creative workspace

Maraya Community Centre’s creative workspace

Barjeel Art Foundation

The second floor of the building is home to Barjeel Art Foundation, a rotating showcase of the personal art collection of Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. When the gallery’s glass doors shut behind me, I felt that I had been magically transported to a great museum. Other than the security guard, I was completely alone with 40 square meters of paintings, an art lover’s dream come true!

I spent a good hour working my way through Re:Orient, an exhibition including some of the masters of Modernism in the Arab World from the 1950’s-70’s. I’m still learning the history of modern Arab art and was surprised to find elements of abstraction and surrealism so evident in works originating in Iraq and Syria. I picked up a catalogue of the exhibition and have been combing through it ever since, reading the short biographies of Hafidh Al Droubi and Dia Al Azzawi and conducting further research online.

Basma Felemban, Sidana. Marker pen on Plexiglass. Part of “The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric” at Maraya Art Centre

Basma Felemban, Sidana. Marker pen on Plexiglass. Part of “The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric” at Maraya Art Centre

Maraya Exhibition Space

The Centre’s third floor is actually the reason I planned a visit to Maraya in the first place. Sara Raza has curated a group exhibition of emerging Arab artists titled The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric.

The exterior of Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah

The exterior of Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah

Photo Credits: Images provided courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Good Ideas
To plan your visit to Maraya Art Centre check out: http://www.maraya.ae. The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric is on through 30 September, 2013.

To learn more about Barjeel Art Foundation visit: http://www.barjeelartfoundation.org. Re:Orient is on through 22 November, 2013.

To find out more about donating to or reading with The Book Shelter visit: http://www.thebookshelter.ae/blog/