A Life Beyond Boundaries: Artist Fatma Lootah

Some may describe her as bohemian, others eccentric and controversial. Today artist and activist Fatma Lootah lives in Italy but her Emirati heritage that was very much a part of her childhood, remains a central part of her life today. Her desire for art drove her beyond boundaries as she struggled to exist in a society that at the time questioned her career choice. Her love and endurance for art is a story to be told.

At Bastakiya on one of her rare visits, she shares her thoughts with me on painting, performance art and her passion in life.

Where were you raised?

I was born and raised in Dubai in the 1960’s and 1970’s, lots of lovely memories.

Current city?

Verona, Italy. I came to Verona in 1984 and never left. This is where I raised my three daughters.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. At the age of 13, I started drawing and painting more seriously. In fact, I was just reminded the other day by AbdulQader Al Rais that we had both exhibited together at the age of 15 at an official art exhibition! That’s how passionate we both were about art. I did my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Baghdad University, and then went onto Washington DC for higher studies in the Arts.

What does your Emirati heritage mean to you?

It means everything to me – the desert is the land that I was raised on. The palm tree is the most fascinating tree – there is no tree like it. I painted the Emirati series of works a few years ago – life-size canvasses of women in traditional dress. One common theme existed – they were all strong women.

Tell us about your latest project.

My latest project is called ‘Whispers from High Heavens’ and was exhibited at Sikka Art Fair. The material used is unique; creating it was also quite dangerous. I persevered to create these very different pieces of art made out of resin and added calligraphy to the paintings.

When was the highlight period of the arts scene during your lifetime?

Until the 1980’s performance art was considered an avant garde mystery. Art was not just created by the stroke of a brush, but also involved performance. This was a very popular period that I lived through, especially in Italy where I created many performance art pieces involving women’s rights. During this period, it became more widely known and people started to appreciate its technical brilliance.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I look up to the skies.

Who is the greatest artist of all time in your opinion?

Pablo Picasso – one of my favourite artists.

A little known fact about you.

I am an avid cook – I love cooking different cuisines to unwind and it’s one of my hobbies.

Words you live by…

Freedom, freedom, freedom.

Click to watch Fatma Lootah’s Abu Dhabi TV interview, 2008 (arabic)

4 thoughts on “A Life Beyond Boundaries: Artist Fatma Lootah

  1. I love hearing about artists and their inspirations. Especially interesting to read about one that is Emirati – and her struggle to make choices that were unconventional in society. God knows how hard it is to be labeled different. Thank you for sharing this with us – and I live by her words as well — freedom freedom freedom.

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