It was a moment of fun and revelation as people from three nations met here in Oman and found that language and culture are not barriers to building a friendship.
Taketo Oguchi, Japanese founder and editor-in-chief of the biggest online magazine, SHIFT, accompanied by celebrity artist Miwa Yokoyama met South African artist Sharm T.P. and her academic instructor and artist husband Willem Pretorius from Nizwa on the land of Sindbad.
Oguchi’s magazine SHIFT, launched 22 years ago, is among the leading cultural webzines in Japan and Asia. SHIFT’s current content includes a variety of creative culture information such as design, fashion, art, music, architecture, and multimedia.
Oguchi’s visit to Oman is relevant, as Unesco’s next call for Creative Cities Network applications is set to be launched next year and illustrates how innovative people like him can transform the creative scenario in Oman. Oguchi came to Oman to interview Sharm T.P. aka Sharmaine Thérèsa Pretorius, a well known artist, who has already drawn international attention for her paintings of holographic memories.
He has a niche interest in artists who have a unique touch, different from anyone else in the world, which is completely original. Usually, he does not find them in the mainstream or underground art culture.
“I rely on feelings or select unique works or artists, who are like no other in the world. The work must be original and reflect a sense of humour. It is very important that the artist has a very strong will to be highly active in his/her area,” he said.
Sharmaine described Oman as a hidden jewel, having the IT whizz kids, the creative drive and artistic talent and an old worldly charming history to become rich in cultural exchanges with artists and collectors, travellers and tourists in other creative cities from multiple countries.
Sharmaine Thérèsa Pretorius completed her debut exhibition “Enclosure Fathom – Part 1” in Nizwa recently and aims to hold “Part 2” in February 2019. The first exhibition had seen her and her close-knit team and sponsors invite 150 well known art collectors to the ancient city.
“We could learn from Oguchi. He has a lifetime of experience with integrating multiple players and fields of creative artistry and experiences sensitively with the socio-cultural-religious fabric of Omani society,” she said.
According to Oguchi’s book of selection, artists should have superior relationship skills, know the difference between “significance” and mere “success”, a sense of humour, character and integrity, a steely will and determination to succeed, and uniquely original work.
Most importantly, he stressed, they should possess the “Kaizen” attitude, which is vital. Kaizen is a process of continuous improvement based on concrete actions, simple, non-expensive, and doable in a short period of time.
Oguchi, a celebrity in his own right, is a judge at the upcoming Unknown/Asia Art Exchange Osaka in September 2018. Some 200 artists selected from 10 Asian countries will be exhibiting there.
The four-member artistic team later headed out to Stal Gallery and Studio, the Alserkal Group’s first cultural project in the Sultanate. Yokoyama remarked, “Though there are very few Japanese people here, I am moved by Oman’s exoticism and the warm welcome from the moment I arrived at the airport. Touched by the religious culture in both Dubai and Oman, I have received a new sensitivity. Moreover, it has become a place where I wish I could extend my stay and interact longer.’’
Let’s hope they will return to cheer up the Oman art scenario.