June 18, 2019
New open-mic space in Dubai offers city a creative outlet for poetry, music, and the arts
by Alex Primiani
The United Arab Emirates literary scene has been blossoming these last few years with new festivals and book fairs, and most recently, a new poetry collective is taking root in Dubai. According to Shafaat Shahbandari for UAE Gulf News, two Sudanese organizers and poetry lovers started Blank Space, which is quickly transforming the literary landscape of the UAE.
Shahbandari spoke with both founders of Blank Space, Mohammad Hakam and Mathani Mohammad who came together over their “passion for poetry and … penchant for organising events.” After both commuted to the local open mic session in Abu Dhabi, Rooftop Rhythms, they thought there might be local interest in their hometown of Dubai from some of the same literary entertainment.
Hakam, who is an electrical engineer, spoke with Shahbandari about collaborating with Mohammad, a nutritionist. “I have always loved being part of, or organising, events right from my university days and when Mathani floated the idea I immediately latched onto it. I used to go to a few open mic events, but there weren’t that many good events happening in Dubai and that was one of the reasons we thought this could work.”
Started in 2015, Blank Space is attracting many different communities to its space, to enjoy poetry, music, and the new creative outlet for the city. And while they’ve been attracting larger and more well-connected performers, Hakam still says word of mouth is what brings new people to the space. He says, “We just have a few simple rules such as no politics of this country, no cussing, no vulgarity etc. Other than that there are no age restrictions or any other requirements. Anybody can walk in, register and perform, it could be spoken word, poetry or singing.”
Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.