SAC: A place where strangers are bonding over art and other creative pursuits

The Sharjah Animation Conference serves as an inspiration-filled common ground for artistic minds of all ages from all walks of life, before wrapping up on May 5

Sharjah, May 05, 2024

How does inspiration strike when the dreaded artist’s block hits? How does one muster the courage to share one’s creations with the world, without a shadow of doubt or fear of judgement? Rabia Yasmeen, once a vibrant art aficionado during her school days, found herself wrestling with these very questions for years.

Now, entrenched in the humdrum of adult life, art is a refuge only for the weekends or days away from paid work. A spontaneous trip to the Sharjah Animation Conference over the weekend, however, seemed to clear the fog and perhaps even set her on a new artistic journey.

“I’m so afraid of exhibiting my work. I’m just a hobbyist, dabbling in illustration and painting,” Rabia confessed, as she flicked through some dazzling images of her art on her phone.

While idling on a serpentine white couch at the SAC Hall entrance awaiting her friend, Rabia noticed Sophie, a 12-year-old prodigy, blissfully lost in her iPad art. Sophie was refining her digital masterpiece, seemingly oblivious to the world. Spotting a kindred spirit, Rabia encouraged Sophie to keep her passion aflame, sparking off a wonderful exchange between artists of different generations, initially strangers, now connected through art.

“I started drawing around age nine,” Sophie shared, her focus unbroken as she perfected the features of her creation. “I love creating my own characters.”

Beside her, her twin brother, Giorgio, armed with a sketchbook and pencil, chimed in. “I’m gunning for a future in programming. I describe my characters to Sophie; she brings them to life, and later, I’ll animate them for my games.”

SAC has proven to be a fantastic melting pot for creatives young and old, fostering dialogues between strangers who are bonded over their love for art.

“I have four kids, three of whom are budding artists,” said Rouby O’Flynn, another attendee, who too shared the stylish couch and enthusiastically became part of the conversation. “This event is a godsend for nurturing their talents—especially in this era of digital distractions. It’s quality time for the whole family.”

An artist’s paradise, SAC offers a stage for both emerging and seasoned talent. The relaxed seating at the entrance has been a perfect spot for sharing stories and dreams.

Sofia El Khyari, an animator and visual artist, who visited SAC on Saturday to deliver a workshop, was impressed.

“It’s only the second year for the conference, but the selection of guests and organisation is top-notch.” Her latest animated short film, “Shadow of the Butterflies,” utilises traditional techniques like paper cut and hand-painted animation, creating thousands of frames by hand. “I usually exhibit my paintings along with the short films. It’s an immersive experience; I love integrating the paintings with the films,” she added.

With many young attendees in tow, the event was buzzing. “It’s wonderful to see such enthusiasm here. Through my films, I delve into my Moroccan heritage, which is so important,” Sofia noted.

Olfa Berhouma-Sakakibara, an animation producer, was also thrilled to be part of SAC. “These days, I’m more into production. We’re keen on bringing Japanese animation to global audiences, particularly in Europe and the Middle East.”

Discussing the digital shift in animation, Olfa added, “In Japan, we might be some of the last artists working with paper. Despite its challenges, there’s something special about traditional methods. Yet, we’re also embracing digital to preserve and evolve our craft.”

Fast becoming a key highlight of the nation’s annual cultural calendar, Sharjah Animation Conference is a place where art meets legacy, and stories are born. Young families, industry experts, budding artists, as well as art enthusiasts — scores of people have been visiting the conference to get inspired or just bask in the creativity and ingenuity of the human mind.

The conference concludes today (May 5).

-ENDS-

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