Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.
- The Dry Salvages, TS Eliot
The dhow, once the lifeblood of the UAE, has, with the onset of today’s fast-paced way of life, diminished in importance. Today many of these majestic boats are abandoned and derelict, left prey to the elements until they fall apart. As the old generation passes away, and with it, its seafaring history, and modernity and progress take over, these great behemoths of the sea now lie at the bottom of sandy graves, covered by the rolling coastal dunes or buried beneath the shifting tides.
In Sinking Ships, artists Dariush Zandi and Shaqayeq Arabi navigate a cultural landscape in both a literal and symbolic state of decay. Photography and installation come together to create a nostalgic resurrection of the past and an exploration of notions of deterioration, fragility and vulnerability in a prism of ethical and ideological displacement.
The fast-paced buzz of the 21st century may have little room for the slower rhythms of the past, yet here, using the ribs of a decayed dhow, a past moment is captured through an image of the present. In laying out the wooden fragments of a shipwreck, they form a blueprint of sorts, an architectural diagram, as though they were instructions on how to create a boat. In doing so, the dhow becomes a phoenix of sorts, rising from its ashes and living anew. Dramatic black and white photographs of dhows and fishing nets shot in 1983, form the backdrop to what is almost an archaeological dig – yet it is in this very excavation of a fast dying past that it is given a new lease of life. While tinged with melancholy, there is something inspiring and majestic about the silhouettes of the dhows, for here, through their presence, they live on.