Sikka Arts Festival: A Multidisciplinary Celebration of Local Creativity

Walk through the alleyways that lead to the flourishing Emirati art scene

Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

SIKKA Arts Festival 2019 Entrace (2019) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

For a decade, Sikka Arts Festival has been an annual celebration of creativity in Dubai and an opportunity to showcase Emirati and UAE-based artists.  Under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority,  the event is a highlight of Dubai Art Season each Spring. 

Cinema Akil at SIKKA Art Fair (2016)Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

Originally focused on visual arts and design, in recent years SIKKA has expanded its scope to include film screenings, musical performances, talks and workshops and invited creatives from across the GCC to be a part of the festival. 

Live performances at Sikka festival (2018)Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

In 2019 Sikka by Day and Sikka by Night offered audiences alternative ways to experience the event, the gallery spaces, art exhibitions and installations in daylight and spectacular visual and audio performances after dark.   

The unique character of the festival reflects the personality of Dubai with a diverse programme of curated exhibitions, created specifically for the particular spaces of its home, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. 

Al Fahidi Historical heritage neighborhood alleys (2019) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

‘SIKKA’ - the Arabic translation of alleyway -  gives the neighborhood a unique character, and features  a series of buildings (called ‘houses’) with wind-towers (Barjeels) and open courtyards.

Narrow alley paved with stones (2019) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The footprint of the area first appeared in the 1690s and it is a protected area. Al Fahidi borders Dubai Creek, which is where the story of Dubai begins.

Late Nights at Sikka Arts Festival (2016)Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

Many cultural organisations and galleries are based in the area and put on special events and exhibitions to coincide with Sikka each year. These include the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Akaas Visual Arts, Tashkeel and XVA Gallery.

Zayed University students work in Sikka Arts Festival (2018)Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

During Sikka Arts Festival, certain houses are given over to partner organizations for exhibitions, such as Zayed University. Other local organisations have activated spaces for workshops, such as Dubai Jiggy, Medaf Studio, and Yadawei Pottery.

‘Little Sikka’ (2019)Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

‘Little SIKKA’ is a space for children’s activities. Courtyards are utilized as spaces for particular creative pursuits, such as the SIKKA Stories courtyard for storytelling and spoken word performances, SIKKA Senses in 2019, the House of Islamic Arts and social house in 2018.

Al Fahidi Neighborhood rooftop during Sikka Arts Festival (2019)Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

The rooftops have been activated for installations or performances. Fellow GCC countries have participated, with interaction encouraged between creatives coming in from abroad and based in the UAE. 

Sikka Arts FestivalDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Sikka Arts Festival has been the launchpad for many Emirati and UAE based artists who have gone on to find success with further exhibitions in the city and abroad.

In a decade the festival has grown in scale and popularity, widely recognised as the go-to community event open to all and the place to fully engage and discover the vibrant cultural scene of Dubai. 

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