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Dubai’s Soul Kitchen explores Arab migration through installations by acclaimed artists

DUBAI: Dubai-based restaurant Soul Kitchen is reflecting on the modern and historical patterns of Arab migration through a series of art installations.

The exhibits include one work by Lebanese artist Rumi Dalle, known for collaborating with luxury brands such as Hermes, Boghossian, and Iwan Maktabi.

Other artists involved in the project include prominent German rug artist Jan Kath and Lebanese Armenian designer Karen Chekerdjian.

With three installations, the restaurant aims to pay tribute to the migration experience of Arabs who relocated to South America during the 19th century and those still migrating around the world.

The first installation is titled “Migrating Birds” and was designed by the restaurant’s co-founder, Tala Mortada, and creative director, Hamza Mekdad. The piece narrates the journey of people leaving their Levantine homes in pursuit of safety and a sense of belonging.

Mortada told Arab News: “The idea of the installation is to tell the story of the last hundreds of years of people endlessly having to leave their homes in the Levant in search for inspiration, safety, and a feeling of home.”

“As the artisans come together, a beautiful metaphor of silk and steel is created highlighting the contrast in material and process,” Dalle told Arab News. (Supplied)

After the Beirut port explosion in August 2020, Mortada had to take her brand, Factory People, and relocate to Dubai.

She said: “It almost felt like a premonition, because of the history of our parents and ancestors always having to leave our countries in search for safety and having to make life make sense outside our home.”

Drawing parallels from her personal experiences, Mortada knew there was a story she had to tell.

“When we came to Dubai this was our feeling, and the only way we could feel at home again was to create something that gives an ode to our story.

“Which is why we are curating exhibitions in the space for like-minded artists to showcase their work and highlight the beauty that comes out from migration,” she added.

Dalle’s “Feathers of Migration” features 150 man-made feathers that hang from the ceiling, representing the artist’s journey from Beirut to Dubai.

“Amidst a struggling Lebanon, Dubai became its second home … a home for a bird of different feathers that despite its differences, it was able to flock and groove with the other birds in the city. This jackdaw of unique feathers is surely of an added value.

“It brings me to think of Dubai and how its immigrants stand at the core of its structure as they bring with them a piece of their home.

“The installation is created with threads of silk and threads of steel welded together, creating the masculine and the feminine energy of the installation.

“As the artisans come together, a beautiful metaphor of silk and steel is created highlighting the contrast in material and process,” Dalle told Arab News.

Flowers on Toast brunch features Latin American inspired dishes like wagyu kafta. (Supplied) 

A walk-through gallery is the final installation. Located at the entrance of the restaurant, the walkway features a starry carpet by Kath and a piece on the walls called “Over the Forest” by Chekerdjian.

In addition to the inspired decor and art installations, Soul Kitchen has introduced a new Saturday brunch menu titled Flowers on Toast that explores the same theme of Arab migration. It is inspired by the Arab diaspora throughout Latin America and features fusion dishes like wagyu kafta, tamarind lamb chops, and mushroom kebabs.

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