Despite a packed weekend, I managed to squeeze in a book reading. Yes, you read that right. "A Case of Exploding Mangoes". That's my copy, autographed by Mohammed Hanif. The few chapters I did read thus far were rather engrossing, I have to say.
A theatrical monologue followed, derived from the book and performed most superbly by Nimra Bucha. Although the book seems to be set in Pakistan's days of military rule under Zia, the play gave me an impression of the Musharraf era.
Yes, I had to return the next morning, for the galleries awaited in-depth browsing. Before the browsing began though, I did brunch at the art cafe XVA (founders and organizers of the BAF) so I could catch the brunch talk among curator Rose Issa, curator Nour Wali, and art paper editor Anna Somers Cocks. It was a very interesting talk, especially the bits about freedom of art criticism in the region, the analogy of Dubai as Hong Kong to the Middle East as Red China, and the dichotomy of the functional vs the artistic.
Normally a place for tourists to brush past the old buildings, grab a camel burger or Arabic coffee, and pace about the small art shops and museum, select buildings in the Bastakiya were, from 15th to 21st March, transformed into one grand fringe art gallery district.
These alleys, houses, apartments and courtyards were once part of the living town that was old Dubai, and every little nook in the parts of this heritage site that had been opened to the art festival was used for display.
A number of independent artists's works were on show, as well as works in several prominent collections from Pakistan to Lebanon.
With sense-rattling canvas art mounted on what were once family living room walls, giant prop pieces set up in old yards, and beaten iron sculptures hanging from what were once children's balconies, the constrast between fringe art and heritage site was stark - and captivating. I do hope they have this again next year.