Meet the Emirati artist who creates stunning black-and-white portraits of UAE leaders

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

The Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) is proudly showcasing emerging local artistic and creative talents to thousands of visitors, enabling emerging artists to share their work and vision with a wider audience of people. Among them is Emirati artist Bayan Al O, who is making a mark with her skills in art and portraiture.

Bayan is captivating visitors to the festival with her stunning black-and-white pencil and charcoal sketches, of mostly UAE leaders and other subjects such as Arabian horses and falcons. Her stand in the the Artists’ Community section of the event, being held at Expo Centre Sharjah, immediately catches the eye with its striking portraits of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE; His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE; and Dubai Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum.

One of the portraits has already been purchased by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed’s Office, the young artist said. One of her paintings featuring a horse has also been featured on the cover of ADIHEX magazine (the annual Abu Dhabi International Hunting & Equestrian Exhibition).

The portraits, which are almost lifelike in appearance give off the feel of monochrome photographs, feature intricate details and the finest of lines to render the appearance of skin, facial features, hair and clothing. “My mother, who is an oil painting artist herself, is my inspiration and taught me my skills,” said Bayan, who has done a few colour works in oil as well. “While I prefer to work on portraits, my other artworks include still life, animals and mixed media ones.”

The young artist also said she prefers to keep a low profile and show her art mostly only on Instagram, where she goes by the name @bayann963. But she has shown her works at several local art events and hopes to continue honing her craft, taking anywhere between a few hours to a few days to finish a piece, she says.

Moroccan spreads cheer: Fancy some piping hot, flavoursome street foods from Cassablanca? Then here’s another reason why you should be headed to the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), running at Expo Centre Sharjah until May 14.

However, if you asked Souhel Mohammed – who runs Fikrah Jadeeda out of a refurbished light green 2000 VW Beetle – he will tell you exactly why his food is just one part of his whole story. “We are the first and perhaps the only Moroccan street food outlet in the country that serves churros and tacos just as you would get on the streets of Casablanca, but what makes us unique is how we serve it,” says the man from Morocco’s largest city who has been selling the Spanish-styled fried choux pastry dough, piped into hot oil, at his car-turned-café throughout the 12-day event along with his 18-year-old son Elghali.

 “We call it Khringo and we do it our way. It’s easy to mistake them for typical Spanish churros because we are not that far away from Spain – geographically and often culturally. But our churros are different and what makes them so is the mix of ingredients,” he says while explaining how other items on his menu at the SCRF come with that ‘Moroccan twist’. “Just like our tacos that come in three varieties – cheesy, French and chicken – all of which you can wash down with our special Moroccan tea,” quips the Moroccan who first came to UAE in the late nineties to develop business as a master franchisor for a French chocolate company.

“That was the only connection I had with food, whatsoever, until I started my company in 2015,” says the 51-year-old father of four who began Fikrah Jadeeda (new ideas) only eight years ago to bring food from his home closer to the people of UAE. “Today we have two such car cafes under the banner. Both converted from old Beetles. One has a permanent home in Sharjah’s Al Shaab Village and the other one, the prototype, goes around town spreading love, cheer with good, warm food,” he explains the modus operandi of his unique food business model.

“But the start of it all has a funny history,” Mohammed reminisces about the early days of My Churro. “It began with a pesky neighbour who would always invariably park in my space until one day I felt so enraged that I wanted to cut open his car. And that’s where I got my spark.”

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