Lest We Forget
LocationAbu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
ClientWarehouse421 / Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan al Nahyan Foundation
Surface area360 m² / 3,900 sq ft
Lest We Forget is a major grassroots arts and heritage initiative that aims to archive, preserve, and share vernacular photographs and oral histories of the UAE. First launched by a group of Emirati female students at Sheikh Zayed University, the initiative’s goal was to kick-start a national archival project that would encourage Emiratis to share their family stories.
GSM Project was brought on board to help adapt the project to the exhibition context. We designed and built a highly interactive temporary exhibition for Lest We Forget, which helped launch Warehouse421, a new arts and culture destination located in the revitalized Al Mina district of Abu Dhabi.
In recent decades, the development of Abu Dhabi has taken an enormous leap. Although the history of the region can be traced back almost two millennia, the traditional nomadic way of life left few material traces. This exhibition was about preserving individual memory, which stands at the core of local heritage in this fast-changing landscape. It fulfills this mandate by featuring a selection of vernacular photographs spanning over 49 years.
" Lest We Forget [presents] a unique exploration of Emirati vernacular photographs through memory and creative expression. "
Creative Director, Lest We Forget
The original version of the exhibition was presented in May 2013 at Sheikh Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. It featured the collective work of 50 female students, including a book that brought together over 200 personal Emirati family photographs, and the works of art they had created to interpret them. Along with the book and the photographs, this creative process is underscored in the exhibition.
A series of pieces of art—installations, photo collages, and media productions—were created by students in response to the collection of personal photographs. These new pieces were also an important part of the original exhibition in 2013 and served as a foundation for our 2015 version, where each piece was displayed in its own mashrabiya-inspired enclosed space.
A workshop-type space was created at the heart of the exhibition, a nod to the university context where the Lest We Forget project took shape. In it, three custom-designed interactive games brought the art of archiving, sorting, and tagging photographs to life, shining a playful light on a subject that could otherwise be considered dry.
Inspiring a collective movement
This project is a collective call to action that aims to use photography and video to contribute to the sense of Emirati identity and history. It has a strong echo in the community and is planting the seed of a grassroots movement.