At first sight, the scene that plays out in the small back room of a warehouse in Mina Zayed comes as a complete surprise.
As a hushed group of young, abaya-clad women remove a series of unlikely objects from a ragtag collection of boxes, their workspace is transformed from something resembling a cluttered photographic studio into a treasure trove filled with rare and antique delights.
Before long, century-old silver hair ornaments are sitting alongside daggers in fine scabbards and men’s belts finished with silver thread. In another corner are engraved brass jewellery boxes, which look to the uneducated eye like so many Victorian jelly moulds – that appear to multiply across the room like a swarm of heavy jellyfish.
As a young woman photographs a traditional Emirati coffee pot, or dallah, in the centre of the room, her collaborator and the project’s co-ordinator, Safina Al Maskari, processes the images and enters each into the archive of photographs, recordings and contemporary artworks.
The scene becomes less surprising when the context is taken into consideration. We are in Warehouse421, the Mina Zayed home of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and the women are working towards the latest iteration of the UAE’s continuing memory project, Lest We Forget.
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