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Fikra Graphic Design Biennale | Sharjah, UAE

LLC FZ CO (A Great Place for Great People to Do Great Work)

Installation Shot. Courtesy of Fikra Graphic Design Biennial, 2018. Curated by Nina Paim from Common-Interest  & Corinne Gisel. Artistic Directors: Prem Krishnamurthy, Emily Smith, Na Kim

At street level, certain neighborhoods in the Gulf emerge like suburban extensions of South Asia. Large populations of Indian and Pakistani immigrants have brought with them the aesthetic signatures of their homelands, perhaps most visible in the shopfront signs that dot the working-class fringes of cities like Jeddah, Dubai, and Kuwait City—which look identical to shops that you find in cities like Jaipur, Delhi, Karachi.



“LLC FZ CO (A Great Place for Great People to Do Great Work)” explores the labor exploitation of migrant workers in UAE through the medium of the shopfront hoarding.  Recreating storefront signage from barbershops, butchers, and cafés, each sculpture is an irreverent mash-up: shopfront names are replaced with language borrowed from real-life job advertisements promoting work in the Gulf, while visuals appropriate the psychedelic and copyright-agnostic imagery of older areas in Dubai like Deira and Satwa. 


The artist interviewed dozens of business owners who shared their UAE immigration story. The ex-taxi driver who went to own a hardware shop. The Bangladeshi master tailor who scaled the ranks to eventually launch a clothing store. But there was also the cook who was owed months of pay. The car upholsterer who only received 1-day off a month. The security guard who owed recruiters back home thousands of dollars. These realities—although illegal according to the law of the land—sometimes seemed endemic to the system.


Each light box was produced in the exact same workshop that produced the original shopfronts, so each graphic was an exact duplication of its real-life counterpart.


Research image.  ©Jalal Abuthina. Inside Dubai


Research image.  ©Jalal Abuthina. Inside Dubai


Research image. Job advertisements

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