Past, Borrowed

Past, Borrowed

Past, Borrowed is an exhibition in collaboration with Warehouse421, curated around the theme of Year of the 50th and UAE National Day.


Past, Borrowed features archival images and photographs that suspend a social history shared between migrant communities to the UAE and their role in rooting its contemporary visual culture. Tensions that fall beneath that suspension of incomplete migrant archives reveal something intimate and familiar, reflecting on the family archive as a trove of important objects of longing and belonging, or as a fragmented archive of the self.


In Ammar Al Attar’s Reverse Moments, longstanding photography studios are documented, some set up in the late 1960s when the country was still part of the Trucial States, others in the early 1970s after the founding of the UAE. Their legacies are recorded through a collection of found and borrowed objects, photographs, and oral histories told by the studio pioneers and their networks of friends, families and compatriots. Saleh Al Tamimi unknowingly began his documentary project Only Time Could Tell when he moved from East Africa to Abu Dhabi in 1976, taking photographs of the city as it formed its early urban identity, and then again four decades later. Their work builds on the significance and value of the democratized photographic archive in regard to the UAE’s cultural memory and temporalities of cultural heritage, and its various embodied forms as everchanging, breathing, decaying, and taking on new meanings.


A community open call for archival family photographs and accompanying text form a participatory element of this exhibition, from which the submitted content will be curated and installed throughout its course as a living, developing activation that locates a cross-section of gulf narratives, borrowed and retold. Between the pointed revisionism of each of the works presented and the community-led open call, Past, Borrowed looks to the ongoing production of a composite photographic archive of the UAE.


Ammar Al Attar

Ammar Al Attar is a photographer and mixed media artist based  between Sharjah and Ajman in the United Arab Emirates. Completely self-taught, Al Attar’s practice seeks to not only  document and translate but also methodically research and  examine aspects of Emirati ritual, material culture, and  geographic orientation that are increasingly illusive in his rapidly  globalizing society. Al Attar’s work has been shown within the  UAE and across the Gulf, and is held in prestigious public and  private collections including Sharjah Art Foundation, Barjeel Art Foundation, and Maraya Art Centre, the forthcoming Zayed  National Museum, and others. He is represented by Cuadro  Gallery in Dubai.


Saleh Al Tamimi

Saleh Al Tamimi is a Yemeni Photographer based in the UAE since the 70's. He has been photographing the growth of Abu Dhabi since his time as a young man and now owns a vast collection of archival photos along with a wealth of knowledge on the urban transformation of the city . He served ADNOC for over 45 years and now dedicates his time photographing different aspects of life after retirement. Saleh has participated in several exhibitions and is an active member of the Abu Dhabi Wednesday Photography community group.