This year’s Y Portrait By A Nation was another resounding success, marking its largest turnout ever. Here, we celebrate the contest that highlights the creativity and enthusiasm of the nation’s youth, as well as their love and respect for His Majesty. And the winners are…
The evening of February 6, 2019 is an unforgettable one. Forty-eight paintings of His Majesty are up on pedastals and their creators are standing beside them.
Much like the explosion of colours and ideas on the portraits, the smiles on the faces of the contestants are just as animated.
Beneath them lies the anticipation of becoming the nation’s top artist in the Grand Finale of the fifth edition of the high-stakes contest – Y Portrait By A Nation (PBAN) – Oman’s premier art competition that has spanned more than three months and undoubtedly caused these children aged between 5 and 17 a few sleepless nights.
Calm as a whistle, each contestant explains his or her painting to the chief guests – led by Sayyid Khalid bin Hamad Bin Hamoud al Busaidi, the Chairman of SABCO Group; and Lana Al Wreikat, the representative of UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) – in detail as they tour the ballroom at the Kempinski Hotel Muscat.
Separated into three groups– split between ages 5 to 9, 10 to 13, and 14 to 17 – there’s very little but an obvious change in the size of the portrait to determine the best from each category.
But these young people know that there will only be nine winners, and that a win would place them among the top artists in the country, aside from the lucrative prizes from a pool of RO2,550 with each group receiving RO150, RO250, and RO500, respectively.
After all, the judging was carried out earlier on an undisclosed date by a discerning panel made up of PBAN’s sponsors and Team Y.
Fast forward to 8:00 p.m. and following a short procession of acknowledgement from the sponsors and the organisers from Team Y and Sabco Media, the panel is all set to reveal the names to the selected audience present consisting of more than 100 visitors.
Presented with the microphone, the MC, Merge 104.8’s Chris Fisher then dissolves the suspense and counts down the winners, relieving them of their long wait… one at a time.
Aayath Khanum, Richa Thakur, and Fouad Zenin Nowshad emerge victorious from the three respective age categories.
The claps and cheers from the proud onlookers surround the ballroom as each winner takes to the stage to receive their award from Lana Wreikat and Sabco Media’s Acting General Manager, Salim al Amri.
Even Lana cannot help but contain her enthusiasm as she rushes down the stage to have a chat with the winners, snap a few selfies with them, and also learn how the kids crafted their message of love and unity through the portrait of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
When we finally get to her for an interview, it’s clear she has soaked up the fervent mood of the occasion.
She says: “Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Y Magazine for such a great event. In the build-up to this event, the work and the effort that has gone into building the capacity and empowering children to work on meaningful art is truly inspirational.
“Hopefully, this is an activity that will continue for years to come.
“The enthusiastic part is that Sabco Media looked beyond Muscat and at children from other Governorates as well – giving the children’s voices a chance of being heard whether it is through music or art.
“I think that is the way to go to make sure that we have children who possess the life skills and ambitions to meet what their lives will require in the future.”
Touted Oman’s top art competition for children and held as part of the Sultanate’s 48th National Day Celebrations, the Y Portrait By A Nation witnessed a record 2,800 participants drawing lasting tributes to His Majesty in Muscat, Sohar, Sur, Nizwa and Salalah over the course of November leading up to National Day – taking it a step further from last year.
While the event at the capital was held on the 16th and 17th of November 2018, there were preceding events held in the outskirts between 9th and 10th of November.
To achieve the challenge, the children were only given one rule: get creative.
And that they did. The resulting 2,800 portraits were nothing short of spectacular lined up against each other – each showing unprecedented levels of love for His Majesty with colours. While some went with the traditional colours to imitate realism, a handful of others got creative with string art, coffee paints, LED lights, glitter, and even shards of glass.
In his speech at the Grand Finale, Said Noor Mohammed al Hamdani, the head of Corporate Communications of presenting sponsors Ahli Bank says: “It’s amazing to see such talented artists like you all come together and showcase your skills. Everyone deserves credit for their effort – but congrats to all the winners.
“Ahli Bank has been extremely honoured to be a part of this journey and we have definitely seen some very gifted artists here who have shown their love for Oman through portraits of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
“On behalf of Ahli Bank, I would like to wish everyone all the best,” he adds, before calling on stage a handful of kids for an impromptu quiz show and gifting the winner with a spot prize.
Aside from Ahli Bank, the event was powered by Gloria Jean’s Coffees and was held in association with Shell Oman, Muscat Grand Mall, Sandan Properties, Sweets of Oman, Shapoorji Pallonji, and hospitality partner Kempinski Hotel Muscat.
In an interview with Y, Burair Iftekhar Al Lawati, the Social Investment, Government and External Relations Manager at Shell Oman Marketing says: “This initiative was part of campaign to celebrate the 48th national day which coincided with the Shell Oman’s 60th anniversary of serving Oman.
“We wanted this educational program to be meaningful and engaging, especially to children in the Sultanate. Research indicates that arts education can connect children more deeply to their communities and open them to new ways of comprehension; creating the foundation to form social bonds and community unity. That is why we were glad to see the diverse backgrounds of the children who participated in this campaign this year,” he adds.
Speaking about his journey and experience with PBAN, the winner of this year’s ‘senior’ 14 to 17 category, Fouad Zenin Noushad, says: “I’ve been participating in PBAN for the last three years but this is the first time that I am winning.
“The support I received from my parents was primary. They helped me a lot behind-the-scenes before the competition and always motivate me to chase my dreams.
He then goes on to reveal how his love for Oman boiled down to his creation – a three-dimensional masterpiece covered in a golden theme and with an accurate depiction of His Majesty’s Royal attire.
“This country has given us expats a chance to live here and the people are very welcoming. This is perhaps why even I associate myself with this country a lot,” says the Indian expat.
Another returning participant, who is incidentally a winner from the previous year, is Richa Thakur. Representing herself solely this year after her elder sister – also a PBAN contender and previous winner – left for college, the young 13-year-old manages to snag first spot in the 10-13 age category.
She says: “I had started practising for PBAN months before the competition. And my hard work has paid off.”
Richa used acrylic paint and fine liner and finished off with strong black paint. Her work is clearly a star turn as bystanders are snapping images of it while they can.
Chiming in is Serena Mariam, the runner-up in the same category. Talking about the PBAN competition, she says: “This is my second time taking part in PBAN, and I must tell you that the standard of the competition is getting higher.
“I thoroughly enjoyed everything – from the day of the painting to the Grand Finale – and cannot wait to be back next year.
“It’s events like this that give many the motivation to pick up a paint brush and begin creating art. And that’s what we need in this time and era where people are more focused on phones and computers than real art.
“Thank you so much for all your efforts, Y Magazine and PBAN, and I hope to be back next year for another great competition.”
Age Category: 5-9
• Aayath Khanum
• Fatima Tamanna
• Anitha Arundeebak
Age Category: 10-13
• Richa Thakur
• Aqeedath Khanum
• Umiksha V.E.
Age Category: 14-17
• Fouad Zenin Nowshad
• Serena Mariam
• Sharon John David