If I am to be perfectly honest, when one thinks of Dubai, art and culture are not high up on the list of associations. Frankly there is very little of it around. But, fingers crossed, I won’t be able to say this for long. Kitsch 22 is company that has taken it upon itself to help bring about this change and they are doing it from the grass-roots level up. It’s really quite difficult to outline what they do, have done and will do. The best way I can think of describing Kitsch 22 is as, and I am sorry for the cliché, having fingers in many pies.
The main players are two young and lovely gentlemen, Shahreyar (Shaz) Sheibani and Shehab Hamad, who set up the organization. Think of it as an umbrella (trust me it’s easier this way). The two of them grew up in Dubai, went to university in other parts of the world, came back and saw a decided need for things around here to be different. I sent Shaz a text message asking him what they do and the reply I got was, and I quote: “Arts and music events, fashion distribution and whatever else we may think of doing.” And yes, this is exactly what they do, but there is just so much more to it.
Under the company Kitsch 22, there is 9714 which is run by Shaz, Shehab and Rishi (a childhood friend and like-minded individual). It organizes events which cater to those with slightly less mainstream tastes. 9714 brings out DJs from around the globe, throws fantastic parties and gives the art-starved Dubai inhabitants much needed nourishment. They have brought out Canada’s DJ Tiga, who didn’t actually wear his sunglasses at night, London-based DJ Che, who also happens to be a friend of the Kitsch family, DJ U-Cef, and the Egyptian-born American DJ Mutamassik, to name a few. They also introduced us to the magical voice of Samita Sinha, whose singing style combines classical Hindustani and jazz vocal techniques. 9714’s events have exhibited works by Rana Salam, whose creations were a tribute to Middle Eastern popular street art. Their very first event paid homage o the photographic legacy left by Paul O’Flynn, a Dubai-based Irishman who captured the essence of Arabian life through the lens of his camera. But apart from these large, several-hundred people in attendance-type international cultural injections, 9714 also ensures that the talented people of Dubai get a chance to strut their stuff.
For the past couple of years they have been hosting regular shindigs, where local DJs, artists, photographers and musicians are given the chance to shine. The initial weekly gatherings were aptly dubbed “subsistence.” For the first time in Dubai, creative individuals here were given a forum to meet and share their work, ideas, and whatever else they may want to to exchange. The most recent installments go by the name “fertiliser” and so far they have showcased a singing Scotsman — who was just beautiful — an Iranian photographer, a jazz band, and so many more that I can’t mention because of my word-count limitation. 9714 pushes envelopes, entices you to live outside the box and helps you remember Dubai’s international dialing code. But Kitsch 22 doesn’t end there. Hell, these guys are so nice they are even willing to put clothes on your back and shoes on your feet.
5Green enters from the left wing to take centre-stage.
Shehab and his sister, Shahi, are opening a shop. If you haven’t already cottoned-on, then let me elaborate. The store will be called 5Green, it will sell clothes, shoes, accessories, art, music, books and cameras. As Shehab says, “…it’s a lifestyle baby…” Again here, these wonderful people, will provide us with something a little out of the ordinary. The clothes are from labels like Fidel, Paul Frank, Nonsense and X Large. Urban wear for the urbane. And the cameras too are definitely not normal. Mr. Hamad is the Dubai ambassador for the Vienna-based Lomography Society. The Lomo cameras as they are known to close acquaintances, and there are about ten different types, are very special indeed. I am so attached to mine, I think everyone should be given one at birth (for more information on these ingenious little contraptions please go to www.lomography.com or pop into 5Green).
The birth of Kitsch 22 heralded in an age of cultural enlightenment in Dubai. If it wasn’t for them, the people of Dubai who are interested in any form of creative expression would have developed a variant of rickets due to insufficient amounts of Vitamin Art. They would have pulled out their hair from frustration and resigned themselves o a life of premature and self-inflicted baldness. And those gifted, dazzling and inspired people who live here would have packed up, caught the first Toyota Land Cruiser out of here and shifted shop. Luckily, none of these scenarios will need to be considered as long as Kitsch 22 continues to do what it does. If you are wondering what Kitsch 22 will think of doing next then join the club. Actually I am not even sure Shehab and Shaz know either. But I am not too worried about it because whatever it is, I know it will be something I like, need and want. What more could one ask for?