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The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program is held under the patronage of wife of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of  UAE Gender Balance Council, President of Dubai Women Establishment.


The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program (SMLAP) 2016 included the commissioning of London-based artist Polly Brannan, whose practice focuses on human interaction within transient spaces. 

Children and families were invited to participate in the Mobile Variety Club at Art Dubai 2016.  Led by Brannan, the programme featured sets, props and visuals created by the participating children and families for various acts including songs, comedy, poetry, puppet shows, quizzes, demonstrations and magic tricks.

Families and children were encouraged to create their own production skits with the help of lead and apprentice artists through the use of conversations, negotiations and performance. Brannan was joined by a group of UAE-based apprentice artists and designers looking to specialise in children’s art education: Alia Lootah, Asmaa El Afifi, Maryam Saffarini, Isabella Toledo and Zahia Abdul.

In its fourth year, the programme continued to grow including the artist-led ‘Artists in Schools initiative’ giving exclusive opportunity to selected schools to experience the workshops in their campus.

2016 also featured the return of Discovery Tours (ages 5-7, 8-12, and 13-17), led by UAE-based and international artists, including Melissa Paul, Sara Masinaei and Saif Mhaisen. These tours enabled young people to discover the fair, with the works brought alive via thematic activity maps and the story telling of the guides.

The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program also featured, a commissioned poster by Emirati artist Khalid Mezaina.


Polly Brannan is Education Curator at the Liverpool Biennial. She is an artist and educator who has produced projects at Frieze Art Fair, Lisbon Experimenta Festival and Nottingham Contemporary, amongst others. She was a Collaborations Curator at Studio Voltaire from 2006-9, and Education Curator at Serpentine Gallery from 2011-13. She is co-founder of network Avant Gardening, and was a member of the collective Public Works from 2005-2011.