Extended & Enlarged Version of Ms. Alison Collins's interview – Founder/Owner of The Majlis Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E.

Educational background: First Class Honours in Art and Design (Furniture Specialization) Leicester University UK 1969. Post Graduate MA in Interior Design, Leicester 1971. Senior RYA Dinghy Instructor June 2005.

The very reason I was sitting with Alison Collins at The Majlis Gallery-Dubai, on the afternoon of 29th November 2014 was to catch up with the twenty-fifth year of anniversary of this vibrant art space. Synonymous with pride and nostalgia, Alison Collins and me are no strangers to history, or, the art scene of UAE.

The two of us were catching up after more than a year and a half.

I look around the room where we were sitting. The walls are decorated with paintings of beauty and carefree happiness. I am introduced to the artist of the exhibition, Louis Jansen Van Vuuren. I am offered a nice cup of coffee by Alison, herself, and in no time – we both drift into the domain of questions and answers.

My initial conversation with Alison Collins draws an evidence of sadness from her. With reason, her eyes are moist, her tone though firm bares soft emotions. She says, 'The death of someone with whom you've been for 50 years, you can't face it in one go. You tend to deal into the adversary – step by step. He is a person you're not going to see him again.'

Alison Collins elaborates her sentiments which immediately become prominent on my mind. The future for all of us delivers the same pattern – doesn't it? The loss of one's partner must have a huge effect – age, terms of relationship are secondary.

'You just have to let yourself deal with it all, keeping in mind what it is doing to you, or, to your dear ones. Death is part of life. But it doesn't prepare you at all,' she continues.

Only a moderate amount of my prodding eases Alison Collins to return to the cheerfulness of the room. That is how the lady is! I get the feeling that however life plays out to her – she is in the sort of perennial healthiness where she will find ways to be content and find the means to be occupied for useful purposes.

We talked about the change in the art market over the years. We discussed about the new and old energy of The Majlis Gallery. 'Majlis is a grown up child. Majlis never has been a part of that spiral height which can fluctuate. I cannot join in the high swift ascending!' Alison Collins explains clearly, reaffirming her original perceptions.

It is true that as the founder of The Majlis Gallery, Alison Collins has never wanted to be treated as a part of "the hype" in the art world. She would rather sustain or thrive on the long term relationships of the artists. From one of the recent interviews, I learnt that Sylvia Woodcock Clarke, a senior-most artist of the gallery celebrated her 80th birthday over here recently.

True to its character, The Majlis Gallery has managed to retain its original trade mark. Opened in 1989, the Bastakia, now known as: The Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, the gallery grew from the passion of a person, who finds courage to pursue her dreams. She is proud to be located in the historic region of UAE – where she is able to welcome artists of numerous nationalities to become: one, big united family of her vision. This is not a small feat!

In today's time – when our world has become a raging bed of lava – where war and senseless ideas are driving humans to the brink of continuous destruction – people like Alison Collins come from their homes to UAE to spread the word of wellness and connectivity through art. This is not a small feat!

In conversation with Ms. Alison Collins - Founder/Owner of The Majlis Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E,

Educational background: First Class Honours in Art and Design (Furniture Specialization) Leicester University UK 1969. Post Graduate MA in Interior Design, Leicester 1971. Senior RYA Dinghy Instructor June 2005.

Along with my artist friend, Patricia Al Fakhri, I entered the establishment through a robust door. Our short steps took us to a clear-cut space opening to the blue afternoon sky. Around us, the architectural enframement was continuous, being the same from left to right. The assembly of the rooms shared with me the roots of the place, and enlivened me thoroughly to illustrate the history of The Majlis Gallery – one more time, after a long time.

The Majlis Gallery is something else! To express it in a ready single phrase, I would describe it as a special, complete work of creation. Notably, Alison Collins narrated to us with a sense of absolute clarity and pride how from her family drawing room she began the business of promoting art in Dubai.

In 1976, Alison came to Dubai, representing a U.K company as an Interior Designer and Furniture Designer. In no time, Alison felt totally at home in her new environment. She says, the place was so welcoming that she embarked on her own in no time to set up an independent line of work. The Majlis Gallery was thus born in 1979. Julian Barrow, a British artist was the first man whose works were displayed and successfully sold. There was no looking back after that.

As we went around from room to room, sighting sculptures, paintings, furniture, jewelry, books – I was still conceived with the part when the site was the home of the Collins family for good many years, that is to say, between 1978-1988. Situated at Bastakia Roundabout, The Majlis Gallery finds an added position by being included in the heritage zone of the city. Definitely, for lovers of art, history and heritage – a huge relief is that The Majlis escaped demolition as did the rest of Bastakia.

Alison picks out art-works which impact her emotionally – that is the basic rule which guides her perception. There is a balance between serenity and vitality; the pure style of Alison is how to capture the heart of the viewers and win the artists – something that can only happen with the desire to be original. The Majlis Gallery displays works of Emirati and International artists. The flashpoints of our conversation showed from the beginning to the end that Alison is surely and securely influenced by art for art's sake. The result of her beliefs executes a sense of straight forward satisfaction in whatever she is accomplishing. Chuni Shah, an Indian lady from Baroda (India) is her business partner. Unlike many business relationships, theirs has mutually flourished through the 20 years of association.

With her zest and talent, Alison gets the freedom to divide her time between The Majlis Gallery and Helford River Children's Sailing Trust - UK. Alison gives time to children from deprived areas and children with Special Educational Needs. As she is the Principal, supervising the features of how these children can learn to row and sail – Alison looks like someone who brings wider fruits for society.

Q 1. What has been the turning point of your life?
A. Coming to the UAE in 1976.

Q 2. If you could go back in time, what would you want to do?
A. I am so totally happy with my lot in life that travelling in my imagination through books is enough. That way I can transport myself wherever I want, whenever I want.

Q 3. What are your future dreams?
A. Quite simply good health for my immediate family and friends and worldwide a greater understanding, tolerance and care between all the fellow inhabitants of this earth.

For further information, check website: http://www.themajlisgallery.com/ and http://www.hrcst.org.uk/

Extended & Enlarged Version of Ms. Alison Collins's interview – Founder/Owner of The Majlis Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E.

Educational background: First Class Honours in Art and Design (Furniture Specialization) Leicester University UK 1969. Post Graduate MA in Interior Design, Leicester 1971. Senior RYA Dinghy Instructor June 2005.

Q 1. In your view, what is most important in life? Accordingly, name three aspects, important in life.
A. Health, Family, Friends.

Q 2. If you were not doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
A. Wondering why I wasn't.

Q 3. What motivates you to achieve your goal?
A. Love and passion.

Q 4. How do you handle stress and pressure?
A. Sometimes better than others.

Q 5. Which of your qualities would you want to pass down to your child / children?
A. The ability to listen.

Q 6. Who is your favourite author? Which book of your favourite author have you enjoyed the best?
A. My tastes are so varied that it would be impossible to choose just one. Usually the book I am actually reading is the favourite. Just now I have two on the go.
You On A Diet by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Fox. Not a diet at all but the science of food and eating. This is likely to become my health bible.
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Varghese, hard to nail but a beautifully crafted tale of a life that starts in Ethiopia in the 40's stretching up to the present day in the Bronx. I will be sad to finish it.

Q 7. What are you pursuing currently, by the way of a light hobby, or by the way of a serious goal?
A. Making a garden and getting in tune with things that grow slowly. Like children and now grandchildren who also need nurturing. Which is what my more serious goal of keeping The Majlis Gallery alive has needed for the last 35 years.

Q 8. In the last one year, is your particular goal advancing? Which is that goal/ dream?
A. I think so, it's hard to quantify advancement in the current economic climate. Surviving by adjustment without compromising standards is the current policy.

Geeta Chhabra

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