March 18th, 2019- April 18th, 2019
It was in November 1962 when a Japanese photographer Y. Kawashima set foot in the Trucial States, today’s United Arab Emirates. Along with his fellow journalist, he was on a mission to report on the wider Middle East for the Sankei newspaper, as Japan’s interest in the region had been fuelled by the arrival of first shipment of oil from Khafji on Saudi/Kuwait border in the previous year. Having landed in Sharjah’s RAF airfield, the pair of journalists made their way to Dubai on a Land Rover taxi to stay in Airlines Hotel near the Creek, the first and only lodging there.
Though Dubai then was a poor small settlement before the dawn of the modernisation era (the discovery of oil did not take place until 1966), it appeared to be a surprisingly lively place with trading and commercial activities. Kawashima who was enchanted by its energy, hustle and bustle “just could not help but pressing camera’s shutter”, thus capturing life in this harsh yet vibrant port town – from the ruler Sheikh Rashid in his humble “palace”, to the Creek, abra crossing, souk, wedding, school and so forth in his trusted Nikon F.
By a stroke of luck there was a Dubai citizen Mr. Abdullah Kamal living in the town who spoke fluent Japanese as he had lived in Kobe, Japan in the1920’s and kindly showed them around. This most unexpected encounter enabled the journalists to visit some key places including the palace where they met the ruler Sheikh Rashid, affording Kawashima diverse shooting chances within a short period of stay of just 5 days.
The collection was buried away and remained in the Sankei archive in Tokyo for nearly half a century until it was brought to the attention of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Sheikh Rashid’s youngest brother in 2007. Thanks to Sheikh Ahmed’s kind gesture, the two former journalists were invited to revisit the emirate for the first time since 1962, and subsequently the collection was brought back to life in its place of origin.