“Those who do not know their past cannot make the best of their present and future, because it is from the past that we learn.” This immortal line from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates, had such a profound impact on Azza Al Qubaisi that the Emirati designer and sculptor made it her life’s mission to showcase the country’s cultural heritage through her job.
Sheikh Zayed is Azza’s “biggest supporter” who adopted his inspiring quote and made it part of his existence.
“I live by that quote, it is an important part of my existence. I have tried to work very hard to connect the past, present and future through my designs, workshops and artworks in schools, universities and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque “. she says.
As an Emirati woman, Azza now feels blessed to have had the honor of designing the trophy for the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, a high-profile women’s tennis tournament that begins on Saturday.
The second edition of the premier tournament features some of the world’s best players, including Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka and Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur, the first Arab player in history to reach a Grand Slam final.
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for me, as an Emirati artist and designer, to showcase local talent and be in the spotlight. In fact, it is a great opportunity,” she states.
Azza Al Qubaisi with a prototype of the trophy (Photo: M. Sajjad)
“I mean, especially in this period that we are living through, all the museums, the cultural impact that we are trying to create in the different societies that we live in, I think it is important, as a minority in our own country, to showcase local talent.
“I feel very privileged because I already won the trophy from the first Mubadala men’s tournament more than a decade ago. So, for me, designing a piece for a tournament specifically for women and having made it for men a decade ago is definitely a great opportunity.”
The most famous sports trophy, the FIFA World Cup, was created by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga. The impressive creation depicts two human figures holding the earth aloft.
Azza, for his part, was inspired by Arabic letters to create the trophy that will be hoisted by the winner of the Abu Dhabi tennis tournament.
“This trophy is very different, it is very feminine, I would say. I think that’s really important. Calligraphy has been fundamental in this. I think showing the beauty of the Arabic language is really vital, specifically for the women’s tournament. I have been trying to defend Arabic letters, we have different letters associated with different things within the Arabic language, even without using the words, just one letter,” she says.
“So for this tournament, I wanted to make it very special and, focusing on the beauty of the Arabic letters and their curve, I added the manufacturing technique to the piece and made it very simple.”
But most sports trophies have been designed by men. Azza, whose works have been exhibited in Europe and the Middle East region, says he owes a debt of gratitude to the tournament organizers for showing faith in an Emirati artist.
“This creates a culture of change: in the past, designs, sports trophies or even art in general, everything was done mainly by men. So, being part of that change, creating a local design, a local impact and putting it on an international platform, I think is very important historically,” he says.
“I believe that change begins from within. This Mubadala tournament from the beginning has provided local talents with opportunities to showcase themselves and make their name known. “I think that is really important for any event that happens in the UAE.”
Surprisingly, Azza comes from the same family as Emirati sisters, Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi, the first female racing drivers in the UAE.
Azza attributes the success of the women who are now setting an example for all the young women in the country to the Emirati spirit.
“There are so many different Emirati women who are changing the perception of the general public and I believe that with the support of our families we can change that perception and excel in what we do,” she says.
“I think that’s the important part. “I think there are a lot of women, and even men, I would say from my experience, if it wasn’t for the men who have supported my journey, it would have been very difficult.”
Born in Abu Dhabi, Azza believes she has been very lucky to have lived with different generations. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different people from different generations and nationalities, which has allowed me to see life from a different perspective and grow around that.”
Azza hopes to return with her work the faith placed in her every time she is entrusted with the responsibility of creating a symbol of hope and progress for the country.
“I think the opportunity that I have been given within the UAE, specifically in Abu Dhabi, to shine, and the trust they have placed in us, the investment they have placed in us as local talent has definitely given me an advantage over others in The sense of experience, in the sense of being able to produce everything locally here in Abu Dhabi, is really important,” he says.
“For me as an artist I work with my hands, I create from A to Z, I think that in some way has empowered me to be able to produce everything within my workshop, within my city, use local suppliers for my packaging. I think that in itself is something that changes perspective in a country where we are labeled as consumers, rather than producers. So, we are definitely changing the perspective.”