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Telling stories with sand

Dubai: Sand fills the desert and in a country such as the UAE it is available in abundance. Yet, not many people stop to think how this natural property is used in manufacturing glass or silicon computer chips, for example.

However, Shayma Al Mughairy, 18, has found another way to use sand to spread awareness about issues dear to her. The Omani national, who lives in Umm Al Quwain, is one of the few GCC nationals known for performing sand art.

"Sand art is a different kind of art and it's special to me because here in the Gulf there aren't many girls who draw with sand," she said. "I wanted to learn this art to be one of the first Gulf girls to draw with the sand."

Drawing her plans

Shayma's talent took her all the way to the finals of the reality talent competition, Arabs Got Talent, where she acquired the nickname ‘Queen of the Sand' from her fans.

An artist throughout her childhood, Shayma was introduced to sand art by her teacher when she was 12-years-old and quickly developed a knack for it.

She has now been commissioned across the GCC region and some parts of Europe to perform at events — most recently at the American University in the Emirates' (AUE) inaugural graduation ceremony.

"For the AUE performance I told the story of a student and their journey through university," she said. "I usually draw to raise awareness about certain issues like drug abuse or the trafficking of humans and their organs."

Just like a painter only needs his pallete and brush, all Shayma needs is her light box and a few handfuls of sands. Her fingers then get to work telling a story through a series of slides set to music.

Music most important

"For a performance I first find out how long they want the show say five or seven minutes and then I storyboard a scenario and start to practise," she said. "The music is the most important part of the whole performance to me because it sets my speed."

Only in her last year of secondary school, Shayma hopes to go on to take up an undergraduate degree in architecture.

However, her sand art will by no means be thrown on the back burner.

"I plan to open the first school to teach sand art."

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