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Mauritius International Art Fair 2019

Fostering Unity, Celebrating Differences

By Teesha kooraram & Waleed Thug

It was the essence of the phrase that lit the fuse on the premiering Mauritius International Art Fair 2019.  The event held at the Caudan Arts Centre from the 8th till 11th August welcomed more than 150 local and international artists to exhibit their works revolving around unity and diversity.  The MIAF provided a platform to enable artists to enlarge their horizons through networking, exchanges and empowerment programs.

What is MIAF?

The MIAF is an annual art fair gathering artists of several disciplines and other personages from all facets of the art culture arena. The four-day event which was open to the public aimed to engage in cultural and artistic exchanges, thus creating opportunities for artists around the globe to expose and put their works on the open market. Close to two hundred artworks were exhibited during the main event that was accompanied by workshops and seminars, all with the purpose of empowering emerging artists, plugging Mauritius into the global creative network, and putting the island on the list of contenders for one of the world’s most culturally and artistically vibrant countries. Serving to educate and introduce art to the general public to cultivate local buyers, collectors, and investors remains just as vital for the economic growth as foreign investments and tourism.

The MIAF hosted over 120 artists from 45 countries.

Opening address by the Head of Creative Industry and Economic Development Board.

MIAF: More than an art fair — Cultivating a new asset for cultural and economic development.

Although the main leitmotif of the occasion was for artists to share their work revolving around unity and celebrating differences, it served as a stepping stone for those present to grow their network and eventually going with the idea of having a global village in our modern era of technology. Furthermore, there were some noticeably enriching programs and ateliers by established figures of the art scene.

The Head of the Creative Industry and Economic Development Board, Mr. Nanda Narrainen, elaborated on the way MIAF, as an annual event, would help Mauritius to reposition itself and transit from a touristic destination that places its emphasis on its beaches and resorts into an artistic hub that would promote cultural tourism and develop art as a new asset. He further added that it will allow stakeholders to exchange and improve upon strategies with regards to the Mauritian art market. As expressed by Mr Narrainen; “The new breed of visitors is looking for more than sun, sand and sea.”

Art as a Catalyst for Social change and Modelling the Arts & Cultural Ecosystem.

The opening of the Mauritius International Art Fair welcomed a crowd of over 200 guests, during which the Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority, Manal Ataya, gave her inaugural address where she highlighted the parallels between the UAE and the Republic of Mauritius in terms of the crucial role played by tourism in setting the foundation of their respective economies. During her speech, she defined culture as a valuable asset for developing the tourism sector; drawing the attention as to how cultural tourism promotes investment and interest in preserving cultural heritage, reinforcing national pride into a country’s identity.

Mrs. Ataya furthermore emphasised on the role of Art as means for creating social cohesion which was further discussed in the conference titled ‘Modelling the Arts & Cultural Ecosystem,’ where she indicated that widening the lens of human understanding and cultural dialogue would serve to strengthen the social fabric of society. The conference provided a platform for shaping strategies that would help develop the ecosystem of art and culture.

The concept was further scrutinised in the symposium titled ‘Art as a catalyst for social change,’ in which several notable figures of the art environment such as Mauritian Artist, Vaco Baissac; Art historian, Zia Gopee, founder of Artlab, David Lagesse, with the aim of raising awareness amongst the public while exploring the possible  future of the art culture. The talk mapped the importance of art as a tool for change by providing platforms for members of the industry and additionally, as a means to represent artists’ inspiration and promoting creative thinking.

Through these talks, artists and the general public were able to understand the direct involvement of art as a synergist to boosting social action, boosting social movement and the impact of art as a powerful medium of expression against oppression.

Panelists of the day-1 conference: Modelling the Art & Cultural Ecosystem in Mauritius

Panelists of the day-2 conference: Art as a Catalyst for Social Change

Ryan Mario: Appropriate measures for establishing artists to take when entering the art market.

Abdulhamid Alattar: Tips for blockchain utilisation and online gallery leverage.

Artist Empowerment Programme — Behind the scenes of paintings and art exhibitions.

In comparison to the previous decades, Art has been able to perpetuate among the leading industries that drives not only the economy but also the general trends that govern society. However, in its effort to maintain the supply for the global demand for visual stimuli, the art world grew bolder in its approach and solicited artists to manage the business realm. In this vein, they had to act as creative masters alongside handling the tedious task of marketing their work and themselves. Through, what the organiser of the MIAF, ZeeArt, adequately dubbed as the Artist Empowerment Programme, art writer Ryan Mario unfolded the required measures to be taken during compilation of artists’ portfolios, the how-to of negotiating contracts with art galleries and ownership of intellectual property; which was followed by an exchange with the artists attending the seminar.

Moreover, ZeeArt’s Gallery Manager, Abdulhamid Al Attar, followed up with a presentation covering the predicaments encountered by emerging artists when marketing their work in today’s growing e-environment. The accent was put on how the ZeeArt’s online platform helps improve artist exposure and thus, in the long run, improve the market value of the art ecosystem in totality through the increment of artworks sales on a wider level. As a final satz, Abdulhamid furthermore predicted about the increase in market size for next years to come, therefore marking the value of blockchain as a tool for the art scene.

Both Abdulhamid and Ryan complemented each other’s presentations, resulting in the Artist Empowerment Programme to be a treasure trove of important know-hows for artists to acquire and put into practice. This not only shows the intent of ZeeArt’s commitment to nurturing this aspect of the industry, but also the dedication of MIAF to promote trust between members of the scene.

Atelier Little Picasso — Nurturing the local community about the importance of art

As Picasso so beautifully said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

The Atelier Little Picasso roughly accommodated a hundred children coming from different socio-economic backgrounds for an animated art workshop that served to educate and promote art as a medium of expression. Several of them were accompanied by local NGOs striving for the social integration and education of children from difficult backgrounds with the goal to introduce art as a way to encourage the future generation and celebrating each of those children’s differences.

Members of the MIAF team engaged with the children during the Atelier Little Picasso workshop.

MIAF 2020

Whilst this premiere of The Mauritius International Art Fair was a huge success and a milestone into art empowerment, we expect to ameliorate and enhance the second edition of the MIAF slated for the 5th to 8th of August, 2020.

Be in the loop for the next instalment of the MIAF over on the website and Facebook page:

https://miaf.mu/

https://www.facebook.com/Mauritius-International-Art-Fair-MIAF-1407711002701601/