So I recently moved back to the UK after living for 5 years in Dubai which I had always considered to be something of a cultural desert as well as an actual one. I had fairly regular dalliances with the Emirate’s cultural events, art openings and pseudo creative happenings but always felt that it was a kind of lip service to Dubai’s mitigation of their cultural void.
Then in 2011 something happened. Whilst walking back from a shoot in the unglamorous TECOM area of town I noticed a rather prophetic piece of spray can scrawl on a bare concrete wall. “We’re Nearly Gods” it read, something I took solace in after a slightly arduous day, but also it was something that awoke a sense of intrigue in me particularly given the location but moreover that it wasn’t a piece of street art, a tag or throw-up it was raw as you like ‘Scrawl’ no frills, no style but a whole lot of of power and substance. Someone in Dubai has ideas, words and an agenda swimming around in their head that simply must get out and speak to people in the most crude and instant form.
As I went about my business within Dubai I started to notice more and more, always on building sites (of which there are many) using bare unfinished walls and surfaces, hoardings and temporary sidings. The scrawl had a viceral energy that one might be used to seeing in abusive statements on derelict public conveniences along with the urgency and passion of political graffiti but always with a playful and intelligent tone.
The mysterious Dubai Writer came up more and more in conversations and friends had multiple sightings of even more playful and obscure statements. But pretty much always written on temporary surfaces. A wise move really but even the Writer’s considerate choice of surface wouldn’t be beyond the strong and rather harsh arm of the Law. This is what people seem to forget here. Street artists, Graffiti Artists and Writer are always in danger of getting busted for what they do but for this individual the risk is huge. Dubai courts aren’t known for their leniency or integrity. The Judges are much more scathing with their sentences and as this is a first time where the writing has appeared on the wall in Dubai could be compelled to make an example of said writer in an attempt to ward off any other would be urban expressionists! For me this is the true strength of the writing on the wall. Being bold enough to have your say anonymously regardless of any consequences.
It really is a kind of coming of age for a city when its residents, whether inspired or anarchic shake their cans and show that they are there.
If you want to see more Scrawl from this prolific writer check out this link. http://arcadiaon.tumblr.com/