The Scent of Memories by Najat Makki
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Being held at the Aisha Alabbar Gallery, the Scent of Memories is a solo exhibition by prominent and multi-award-winning Emirati artist Najat Makki that displays her latest mesmerising rhythmic art pieces. Some are paintings created by layering colours on top of each other, thus creating intense sensory experiences. Other works (those on fabric) demonstrate Makki’s contemporary interpretations of the dot and paisley design from traditional fabrics.

Makki is famous for her complete command of colours and deep insights into the relationship between colours and what they evoke. The show’s title translates into Arabic as atyaf almusk, which means the Spectra of Musk. Makki’s father owned a perfume store where he sold musk, so she says that the smell of musk has a strong presence in her memories.

Najat Makki, The Scent of Memories (installation view). Aisha Alabbar Gallery, Dubai, 2023.

The exhibited works (including abstract ones) represent a particular memory or refer to a particular story. For example, the acrylic painting Echoes of Musk #3 pays tribute to Makki’s sisters’ passion for embroidery. According to the artist, that craft was one of the first mediums which “opened her eyes to colours”. Meanwhile, to produce the works from her series titled Resonance, Makki has used zari, an Indian fabric special to her. In her childhood, zari was fashionable and worn by women on special occasions.

Through the Scent of Memories show, Makki hopes to “evoke an intimate memory of a time and place” in a way that is individual to the spectator.

Najat Makki, إقاع | Resonance #3, 2023. Mixed media on paper in light brown wood frame. 65.6 x 85 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

About the artist

One of the first female artists in the UAE, Najat Makki (b. 1956, Dubai) received her Bachelor’s (1982) and Master’s (1998) degree in Relief Sculpture and Metal from the College of Fine Arts (Cairo, Egypt). After returning to the Emirates, she worked in scenography for children at the Ministry of Education. Later, Makki returned to Cairo to pursue her education. In 2001, she became the first Emirati woman to obtain a PhD in art (in metal coins, to be precise). Today, Makki is a member of the Dubai Cultural Council, the Emirates Plastic Arts Society, and the Art Friends Society.

Always drawing inspiration from her surroundings, Makki is especially inspired by her childhood memories, myths from different cultures, and the moon and the lunar cycles that symbolise an infinite circular regeneration for her. Her work often embodies the traditional inheritance of the UAE. Employing calligraphy and lines, Makki depicts elements of nature, such as the gulf and the desert, and renders them with colour and fabric.

Najat Makki, Untitled 203, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. 101.3 x 101.8 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

A woman is a crucial image in Makki’s art. In her works, she says, women appear in different forms showing them as independent beings yet united in society with men. Makki also uses natural elements to symbolise women. They include the sea, which represents women’s patience and generosity, and palm trees, as they are part of the Emirati and Arab heritage”, so Makki uses them “as a symbol of a woman standing strong against storms and possessing resilience.”

Since 1987, when she held her debut show at Al Wasl Club in Dubai, the artist has showcased her art in multiple exhibitions in the UAE and abroad: Egypt, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, and the UK. Her artworks have been added to the permanent collections of the Sharjah Art Museum, the Cultural Foundation (Abu Dhabi), the Women’s Museum (Dubai), and the Ministry of Culture and Youth (Abu Dhabi), among many others.

The Scent of Memories will run through the 2nd of November, 2023. To learn more, please visit the show’s official web page.

You may also be interested in visiting Moving Art at XVA Gallery and Timeless by Robert Santore.