Dubai Design Week: Khalid Shafar
Having carved an enviable reputation by combining traditional elements of UAE culture with contemporary product design, Shafar has quickly become hot property in the design world. He has previously collaborated with the Campana Brothers, French cabinetmaker Moissonnier, and Italian giants, Kartell.
After a successful showing in London over the summer, The Nomad returns to Dubai to be exhibited at Dubai Design District from October 26 to 31.
Hi Khalid, tell us about The Nomad…
The Nomad is tent-like installation built around a faux date tree trunk with a circular sitting space inside. The idea is that it narrows the distance between people so they can relax and converse with one another while looking at the enclosure, trying to figure what the shape is about and how that connection was made. It’s positioning in the Dubai Design District offers the installation a great contrast. The Nomad reflects old architecture, while the buildings around it show the modernity of a city.
You recently took it to London. What is the impression they have of Middle Eastern design?
In London there is a perception about what Middle Eastern design is, particularly when it comes to aesthetic attributes. The misconception is that Middle East is all about orientalism and ethnicity. But I don’t think this is true. We can also be contemporary and modern. I am part of a group of designers who are venturing and experimenting with design that is more contemporary than oriental. Another important distinction is the way people tend to group all Middle East design together. The Gulf is just a small part of the Middle East, and it has a very different design aesthetic compared to the Levant and Iran. Sure, there are similarities, but you cannot lump us all in together.
What does it mean to exhibit in your home city?
I feel it is a duty. My aim is to prove myself on the international market, but it is important to never neglect your origin. I have a duty to represent a local voice and, deciding to base myself here, I wanted to demonstrate that there is a local voice, telling people who we are, what we produce and what our design aesthetic is. We are the best people to define our own Emirati design.
How much does Emirati heritage influence you?
When I started, I didn’t want to be known as someone who was culturally inspired, but I haven’t shied away from it. I enjoy digging deeper into our culture and learning more about it, but I want to present this culture in a contemporary way that can appeal to more audiences, not only Emiratis. I want my work to be universal and inclusive, even if I also want to reflect the culture that I belong to.