The fact that public art is, most of the time, perceived by city officials as risk factor at the very least, and as a criminal act of vandalism at the most extreme, is nothing new. The debate surrounding graffiti has been going on for years, between street artists who consider their creation public artwork of great values and the authority who claims that it is illegal to exploit and contaminate the public space as such. Different locations can provide very different result in this struggle for dominance: for instance, in cities where graffiti has a long tradition, the authority is more likely to give way to the artists; on the contrary, in places where street art is still a novel concept, the artists usually have to succumb to legal restriction. Dubai certainly belongs to the second case. Graffiti in Dubai does exist, but it does not embrace the spirit of its western peer: transformed into a business venture, it is no longer a free-for-all form of art but must be confined to approved public space. The process to get such approval is not simple, as there are layers and layers of bureaucracy that the artist must go through if he/she wants to paint legally on a public wall. While the locals may be very understanding and hospitable, the authority may have less initiative to be so. The lack of legal, openly accessible public wall in Dubai is not the only fact presented in the article “Female street artists take to Dubai’s walls”; there is a more disconcerting revelation in the fact that graffiti in particular and street art in generally are still commonly perceived as a male business, despite the growing participation of both female artists and audience. One find some comfort in hearing Dina Saadi, a Syrian-Russian female artist who took part in the Women on Walls festival in Cairo saying that there is respect and equal treatment among male and female artists and audience; nevertheless, the under-representation of women in the realm of street art remains something worth thinking about.
Electric Heart by Dina Saadi