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GRATITUDE 50-Tribute to late HM Sultan Qaboos

Twenty-seven artists together paint a gigantic tribute to late HM, Sultan Qaboos bin Said

For the 27 artists who came together to paint a tribute portrait of the Late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, strokes of their paintbrushes communicated to the world what that their words couldn’t convey.

For years, resident artist Martin Mbute, the brain behind this huge artwork, looked for a way to express his gratitude to the Late Sultan and the Omani people for giving him a home away from home, where he lived for 20 years.

Seven years ago, the Kenyan artist began working on a painting he had planned to gift to the Late Sultan on the occasion of the country’s 45th National Day. The frame of the painting was to be intricately designed and crafted with a story of the historical links between Oman and Africa. Due to its complexity however, the project was overtaken by time, and eventually brushed aside.

Despite the fact that his first project did not see light of the day, Mbute never stopped thinking of a way to express his thanks, and eventually came up with ‘Gratitude 50’, which, he explained, “is a summary Thank You card by the expatriate community in the Sultanate of Oman for 50 exceptional years of peace, tranquillity, friendliness and hospitality, that we believe deserves to amplified across the world.”

A few days following the Late Sultan’s passing, the artist posted an advertisement at Muscat Art Club asking resident artists from the expatriate community to join him in creating the masterpiece.

“It’s never too late to say thank you,” he said. The advertisement was met with a great response and, according to Mbute, people began joining organically.

The painting, which is made up of 49 separate canvases put together to form the portrait of the Late His Majesty, brought together 27 artists from all corners of the earth including India, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, New Zealand, Philippines, Serbia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UK, US, and Brazil.

Mbute’s expression of gratitude, which finally came to fruition, represents sentiments that are shared across the expatriate community, and because of that, the 50th and final canvas was left empty, for other expats to share in the expression of gratitude with their own personal thank-you messages for the Late Sultan.

“This is inspired by the real experience that you have in Oman. Oman does not distinguish where you come from. They (Omanis) don’t care. You are just a brother or a sister to them, just like their own,” he said. “We were inspired by that. It’s so deep inside that we must find a time and place to say thank you.”

The portrait was launched at the Water-Front, and displayed there until March 17. Upon hearing about the project, Water-Front representative Kethki Ambekar said that the company jumped at the chance to display it due to its uniqueness and the fact that the Water-Front’s outdoor, by the beach location, provides the perfect nostalgic atmosphere for such an event.

The portrait touched the hearts of many, including Omani passersby at the Water-Front.

When asked why they joined in the project, the other artists seemed to all have been driven by their love of the Late Sultan, and his people.

“The subject of this project is Sultan Qaboos. We love him. I think that he was the one who established peace in the Middle East. He was very important, and I respect him from the bottom of my heart,” said Iranian artist Mena Rezaee, in Oman for 14 years.

Iraqi artist  Afnan Shukri shared similar sentiments, saying, “I would love to keep this piece in the National Museum to show the whole world how expats live here and how they grew to love Sultan Qaboos.”

For Indian artist Soni Budhia, the project presented her with the perfect opportunity to give thanks to the great leader.

“I was really excited because this was an opportunity where I could express my gratitude to His Majesty for the contribution that he has done for us expats living in Oman. We live here as if it is our own country,” she said.

“It is not a strange sight to see expatriates doing things like this for the Late Sultan as he was a great man. It is a very nice gesture, so we thank them for that,” said   Khaled al Shukeili, a citizen present at the launch.

Gratitude 50 was open for the public to express their gratitude for five days after which it will be installed at a museum in town, in all likelyhood at Bait al Zubair.

(This article is written by Liyana Al Abdul Salam, an intern, and a graduate from American University of Sharjah)