20 March 2023–23 April 2023

OPEN CALL: لمة | Lamma, Coming Together

Al Shindagha Participatory Public Art Commission


Starts 20 March 2023

Ends 23 April 2023

Venue Off-Site


Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and Alserkal Arts Foundation invite UAE-based artists, designers, architects and community-based practitioners and collectives to propose a socially engaged, site-specific public art commission that will be realised in Al Shindagha Historic Neighbourhood. A prompt has been devised by the appointed curator and project guide, Munira Al Sayegh.

This is a unique opportunity to work with an experienced and locally based curator and really work through an understanding of the impact and legacy of public art and the potential for meaningful social engagement in an urban heritage and museum context. The commission is intended to be process-led with ongoing public programmes across the summer, which will lead to the realisation of the final art installation and culmination of the project in the autumn of 2023. Artists are invited to propose ideas rooted in public participation and invite in visitors, those who live and work in the area, or those who have a relationship to the neighbourhood - to join in, contribute and help determine the final outcome of the work.


Al Shindagha is a historical neighbourhood that sits in the heart of Dubai’s original city centre, built next to Khor Dubai, also known as the Dubai Creek, an important passageway into the city from the sea. It also faces Deira and Bur Dubai, neighbourhoods with similar significance in the city’s history of pearl diving and fishing, trade, cultural expansion, and family heritage.

Trade and the movement of commodities have always been central to Dubai's growth, defined by accessibility, expanding what is available locally and what could be gained through regional ties. This also linked Dubai as a pinpoint within the wider map of its surroundings. As a result of its prosperity, it opened up to a cultural expansion that saw new waves of people from different backgrounds and cultures. Al Shindagha Historic District holds its own enriched and adaptive culture that carries remnants and residues of every generation that were once a part of it. Through these generations, local family heritage set a generous tone and welcoming environment for the communities that existed and will continue to exist within the area. These signifiers can be seen in the architecture that allows movement and helps create special memories for its visitors. While associated with maritime heritage, trade and movement, the neighbourhood also allows for rest and stillness within its courtyards that provide shaded spaces for informality and gathering.

The site selected for the commission is of special significance due to its proximity to the Al Maktoum Residence, which contains the archives of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and his role in the development of Dubai. The Al Maktoum Residence section showcases the Dubai ruling family’s legacy and accomplishments, as well as the historic events that took place in Dubai over the years.


The Al Shindagha Museum, located in the Dubai Creek area, offers a vivid narration of the history of Dubai and showcases its rich cultural heritage. The museum immerses visitors in Dubai’s traditional lifestyle of the 19th century and 1970s and tells the story of Dubai’s journey to becoming the modern metropolis it is today.

The Al Shindagha Museum is the largest heritage museum in the UAE, featuring 22 pavilions that include 80 historic houses showcasing the development of Dubai and the UAE. It offers a glimpse into the traditional Emirati lifestyle and the rich cultural heritage of the region, with exhibits that date back to the 1800s.


Khor Dubai plays a big role in the local stories told of the Al Shindagha Historic District’s adaptive reuse over the decades. Echoing this continuity of function, the liquidity of the creek becomes a constant companion to the stillness of the architecture, both of which have shaped the character of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants, permanent and temporary.

How can weight and weightlessness be expanded on through moments of stillness or collective gathering? How does this tension gently address or confront us as we negotiate the shaping of something concrete?

The weight of Al Shindagha within the history of Dubai is located in its connectivity and relation both to the past and to the present. The weight can be defined as all that remains as a trace of what has been here; and which is propelled via the weightlessness and liquidity of the nearby body of water, which allows movement and many journeys. This push and pull is a creative tension that accommodates and carries multiple stories, told and retold through the travelogues of goods, of people, and of cultures. Can a work of art invite visitors to engage with this evocative location in modes imaginatively similar to how the stories, folklore and traditions of the area continue to change and circulate?

This open call considers this weightlessness as a framework proposed for the public artwork. Reflecting the surrounding area and the notion of floating on water, the public artwork must take shape through public participation. We encourage applicants to be innovative with formats to engage with the context of the area and to inspire the local public. Programming could constitute workshops, talks, focus and study groups, oral history projects, walks, or boat rides, and much more. The final artwork could include aural, visual and other sensory experiences.


This is a community-based project that engages with Dubai’s rich maritime heritage and multiple trade histories. In consultation with the selection committee and project team, artists who can interact with the residents and businesses with links to the area will be preferred.

Experience in developing and delivering public art projects in urban settings is desirable, but not necessary. We are committed to sustainability, both in production and process, and will require the artist to work mindfully and with attention to best practices.

Public commissions must engage diverse audiences through public programmes and online, which will be developed in consultation with all stakeholders. Experience and knowledge of both physical and digital programming are also desirable.

The proposal must be cognizant of and sensitive to the historic nature of the heritage zone. Do note that, given the historic and public nature of the site, proposals may need to be adjusted based on municipal, conservation and operational regulations.


OPEN CALL closes 23 April 2023, 23:59 pm UAE time

Chosen by Selection Committee comprised of the curator, Alserkal Arts Foundation and invited UAE based arts professionals with knowledge and experience of the local context
May 2023

June 2023

To be conducted in Al Shindagha in collaboration with Al Shindagha Museum
July and August 2023

October 2023


The appointed artist will be rewarded a fee of 35,000 AED which will include the initial proposal, a detailed final proposal; project delivery through developing, leading and participating in the programming; and final artwork design and production up to the public inauguration of the project and any associated launch events.

The two additional finalists will receive a fee of 5000 AED for the development of their draft proposals for presentation to Dubai Culture.


1. Applicant’s biography and relevant experience

2. Previous portfolio with relevant projects highlighted

3. Text proposal (500 characters) which should include programming/public engagement ideas

4. Images or videos of the proposed concept (upto 5)

5. Proposed budget outline