Middle East Revealed: “Just because we are creating contemporary design it doesn’t mean we are losing our identity” says Khalid Shafar


A contemporary exploration of Middle Eastern design was showcased at London Design Festival this year at an exhibition called ‘Middle East Revealed’ featuring Emirati designers as well as talents from other countries in the region.

Organised by Wallpaper* magazine, in association with Dubai Design District (d3), the exhibition revealed a thought-provoking narrative from various creative disciplines ranging from furniture design, fashion and photography.

Curated by Wallpaper* editor-at-large, Suzanne Trocme, the show aimed to draw attention to the rapidly developing creativity in the Middle East.


“Judging by the exhibition name, ‘Middle East Revealed’, they were really trying to highlight the contemporary design of the Middle East. And that’s how the whole exhibition was presented. It was a new, fresh, contemporary perspective of design from the Middle East,” said Emirati designer, Khalid Shafar whose work was exhibited.

“Personally I believe there is a kind of cliché perception, a specific perception of what Middle Eastern design is, but this exhibition had reflected a totally different perspective and it also fit with what London Design Festival is generally offering so we were very much melted with the other surrounding exhibitions at the festival,” he added.

Pieces of Shafar’s ‘Illusion’ series were displayed, along with other emerging and established names in the Middle East design industry including Emirati designer, Aljood Lootah whose ‘Unfolding Unity Stool’ was presented. Other designers such as Taher Assad-Bakhtiari, Nada Debs and Fadi Sarieddine were also present at the exhibition, representing countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Iran.

Shafar said the show was a rewarding platform to tap into the London market and creative scene: “I knew it would be a good exposure since I’ve never exposed my work in London before so that was another opportunity for me,” he explained.

He also commented that ‘Middle East Revealed’ created an opportunity for international audiences to change their perspective on what they assume Middle Eastern design represents.

“I always see people associate it with certain attributes, certain styles, certain colours, and I think what we did with this exhibition was give people an idea that Middle Eastern design is not necessarily what people assume it is,” he explained.

“It is not Orientalism, it is not ethnicity, and it is not always classical or glam-and-glow. We can be subtle, we can have simple lines, we can be modern, we can have certain materials that are not always luxurious, but ones that can be rustic. So I think we gave people a good mix of products on display.”

He added that although, the pieces exhibited were representations of contemporary design, the Middle Eastern identity was not at loss.

“Just because we are working with a contemporary style it doesn’t mean that we are losing our identity within our creations. There was always a subtle touch of the Middle Eastern feel in all the products, either in the craftsmanship or the materials, or calligraphy. So there was always a spirit of the region and I believe that we had sent a clear message of this to the public.”

Commenting on the feedback received by the visitors of the exhibition, Shafar said: “I had heard a lot of surprised and shocked feedback from people, about how they had never expected to see Middle East design to be represented in this way. It was clear that many people already had some kind of expectation of what the show would be like but what we had shown them was something else.”

See full exhibition here.



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