In our continuing series on building a life as an artist in the UAE, this conversation delves into current opportunities and challenges that artists are facing with careers based in the country. Hear from locally based artists: Syrian artist, Majd Alloush, award-winning artist, and writer, Danabelle Gutierrez, and Bharatanatyam dancer, Bavani Pillai, as they share how they have navigated creating work across various genres in the region.


Majd Alloush

Majd Alloush is a Syrian artist whose work spans multiple disciplines including printmaking, sculpture, photography, moving image, installation and performance. His creative practice challenges the notion of borders in concept, content, and medium, by exploring geopolitics, and social and environmental issues such as the ramifications of war and displacement. Alloush strategically creates work wherein multiple interpretations are possible, requiring the viewer’s own worldview to inform the meaning. His work is situated within contemporary hybrid practice, at the intersection of traditional processes and innovative methodology. Alloush holds a BFA from the University of Sharjah, Class of 2018, and is currently pursuing his MFA in Art and Media at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Danabelle Gutierrez

Danabelle Gutierrez is a multi award-winning artist, writer, actress, and photographer. Her writing has been published in The Common, Cordite Poetry Review, Postscript Magazine, ElectraStreet, WordsDance, and in a video by Vogue Arabia recited by Ciara, among other publications. Danabelle is the author of & Until The Dreams Come and I Long To Be The River and chapbooks Eventually, The River Surrenders and Softer. Born in Las Piñas, raised in Cairo, Vienna, and Muscat, Danabelle’s current work is centered on identity and its relation to locus and the concept of home which, for the past two decades, has been Dubai where she lives, loves, and writes.

Bavani Pillai

Bavani Pillai started her formal Bharatanatyam (Classical south Indian dance style) training in 2000 in Singapore. She completed her Arangetram (dance debut) under her Guru Gayathri Bakthan in 2011. She has since performed extensively in productions in Singapore, Malaysia, India, New York and now in Dubai. She co-founded Moving Mudras with the vision of making classical South Asian dance forms accessible to a wider audience through innovative collaborations and dialogue. She continues to learn and immerse herself in the art form and is currently under the tutelage and loving guidance of Renuka Iyer. She sees dance as a tool towards spiritual growth, enjoys connecting with like minded creatives and finds joy in discovering new depths in her pursuit of the art.