Talent and the spirit of nationalism overshadowed competition at the 6th annual Y Portrait By A Nation – Oman’s biggest art contest. Team Y highlights the creativity and enthusiasm that went into each painting as nine winners were handpicked from thousands to mark the occasion.
A year of planning, four weeks of intense competition across all areas of the Sultanate, more than 2,900 contestants, ten long hours of judging, and 49 finalists later, and the final night of Y’s premier event – Y Portrait By A Nation (PBAN) saw once again some of the nation’s best young talent come out and shine.
It’s a sight to behold, as 49 young finalists ages five to 17, all dolled up in the colours of Oman or wearing their traditional finery, eagerly wait by their portraits in the ballroom in the Kempinski Hotel Muscat.
Two hours of hard work and creativity lies in the balance as the night commences. Much like the explosion of paints and colours on their portraits, their emotions are animated as well.
Smiles stem from anticipation as all eyes are trained towards their artworks. After all, the stakes are high and prizes worth a total of RO2,550 are to be won – and, if it was up to us, each child would’ve taken home the prize.
But, our top 49 contenders were handpicked after a rigorous screening process by a discerning panel of judges made up of PBAN sponsors, award-winning Omani artist Budoor al Riyami, and Team Y.
Presented by Ahlibank, Powered by Mazoon Dairy and Asian Paints Berger, In Association with Mall of Muscat, Minara, OSCO Shapoorji Pallonji, and Staedtler, and in Support With the Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, Nizwa Grand Mall, City Centre Suhar, and My City Centre Sur, and Hospitality Partner the Kempinski Hotel Muscat, this year’s PBAN event exceeded all expectation.
The intricacy of each young artist’s portrait renders a unique signature. From paintings lined in coffee, to a three-dimensional model of His Majesty, and even ones splashed in varying tints that portray an abstract air, each painting is the brainchild of the artist’s imagination.
It sets the tone for the night that lay ahead.
Taking the role of Chief Guest for the night is Her Highness Sayyida Dr. Taghreed Bint Turki Al Said, along with Her Highness Sayyida Amaal Turki Al Said, both of whom are intrigued by the artworks they’ve seen on display.
“The creativity is off the roof,” says Sayyida Dr. Taghreed. “The colours are incredible. It’s the perfect tribute to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and for the National Day of Oman.”
Led by the Acting General Manager of SABCO Media, Mr. Salim Al Amri, the distinguished dignitaries take a tour of the ballroom, as each child explains their paintings to the chief guests.
Separated into three groups – split between ages 5 to 9, 10 to 13, and 14 to 17 – there are obvious changes in the size of the portrait to determine the best from each category.
But it all comes down to the final call of the judges. And the night officially commences with a short procession of acknowledgement from the sponsors and the organisers from Team Y and SABCO Media.
The children also receive a welcome surprise to ease the tension in the form of free Oman Aquarium tour vouchers from PBAN 2019’s Associate Sponsor Mall of Muscat.
But, tension still looms – and you can cut the anticipation in the air with a knife. Twenty minutes in, Merge 104.8 presenter Tom Green dissolves the suspense to reveal the final nine from the pool of 49 finalists…one at a time.
Excitement peaks as parents beam with pride over the triumphs of their children. Some even pass on hugs as their child walks towards the stage. As it turns out, it’s the children who manage their emotions well on this night.
Daksh Gulecha, Janatul Riya Saba, and Abhinav Suresh take home the top prizes in the 5 to 9, 10 to 13, and 14 to 17 categories, respectively, amid cheers from the proud parents and onlookers who were present in the ballroom.
Sayyida Dr. Taghreed is keen to snap up images of the finalists’ portraits as they interact after the ceremony.
“What inspired you to create a colourful portrait of His Majesty,” she asks Daksh Gulecha, the winner of the 5 to 9 age group, who is seen shy in response. She laughs, before passing on words of encouragement and commending him on his efforts.
Speaking to us, she says: “This is one of the platforms that kids can beautifully express themselves and they can showcase whatever they did. Some of these kids – as we’ve seen today – are very shy and are unable to express themselves verbally.
“But, through art and their paintings, they’ve done a marvelous work and have expressed themselves and their love for Oman and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
“Unfortunately, when we were looking at the portraits, we had to look at them quickly. But, if we were to take a second look at it and we go deeper and deeper, there’s a lot that we can analyse and understand about the way they chose the colours, the detailing, and the backgrounds they selected.”
It’s evident from her words that the children are able to convey their messages of love, peace, and unity to His Majesty through their artistic expression – and it’s a level of talent that also renders Lee Northmore, the Director of Retail and Mall Operations at Mall of Muscat, speechless.
Expressing his regards to the winners and contestants, he says: “I don’t know what to say about all these paintings. I’m absolutely speechless. The way they’ve all come forward and brought to life such beautiful portraits with colours is amazing.
“They’ve exceeded all our expectations; from the young to the youth.
“This is what the National Day of Oman and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said means to them. It’s extremely touching, and it gives out a wonderful image of life here in the country,” he adds, before revealing how he’s celebrating his first National Day in the Sultanate this year.
But we’d expect no less from what’s touted as Oman’s biggest competition for children. With over 2,900 participants coming out to draw lasting tributes to His Majesty – all the way from Salalah to Sohar, Sur, Nizwa, and Muscat – the talent pool has grown and so has the creativity here on display.
While portraits fitted with LEDs were missing this year, children weren’t afraid to experiment with three-dimensional models, glitter, paint splashes, and even 24-karat gold flakes – thereby stepping things up a notch for this edition of PBAN.
This freedom of expression and experimentation kept in line with the one challenge that was presented to the children: to get creative in any way they deemed possible to bring their portraits to life.
While the event was held at the Mall of Muscat in Mabelah on November 15 and 16, the preceding events in the interiors of Oman were held earlier between November 8 and 9.
Speaking about the event, Muzna al Balushi, a member of the CSR Group of Ahli Bank, tells us: “It’s great to encourage the young generation to showcase their talent and show their gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the country.
“The drawings that they made are amazing. It goes to show the talent and creativity in our country.
“I encourage Y Magazine in the initiative and hope that you can continue this and include more cities within Oman in the future so that we can get to showcase what talents we have within the Sultanate.”
Ms. Al Balushi’s emotions are echoed by Ahmed al Ghafri, the Chief Support Officer of the all-Omani dairy company – Mazoon Dairy.
Lauding Y’s efforts in promoting the 49th National Day of the country, Ahmed says: “It was a pleasure to be a part of this event. It was a lovely event as well. When you see kids gathering here after competing for weeks, it promotes the National Day festival – and that makes us very proud.
“What I can see here are wonderful works – regardless of the competition and results. The talent of the kids is incredible, and Mazoon Dairy would like to wish them the best. We will be a reliable partner in the social events and initiatives in the future.”
Also vowing to return to PBAN is this year’s winner from the ‘junior’ 5 to 9 age category, Daksh Gulecha, saying: “I’m very proud to be a part of this year’s finalists and was very happy to learn that I’m the winner.
“I put a lot of effort into it. I practiced a lot at home and I think it’s the hard work that paid off in the end. The competition was very tough this year, and everyone here did a great job. But, I am certainly proud of my achievement and will be coming back next year.
Janatul Riya, the winner of the 10 to 13 years’ age category is a returning artist and a regular at Y’s art events. She says: “Every year, I practice for PBAN a few months before the final event.
“I practice a lot to take part in the event. I feel it’s one of the ways we can showcase our skills while also expressing our love for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. I feel the colours on all our portraits are a testament to what he has done for his nation.
“This is Oman. A colourful nation with a wonderful leader such as him. And these paintings here are all an emotion of love for
Age Category: 5 to 9
Second runner-up: Wania Khan
First runner-up: Zayd Ahmed Khan
Winner: Daksh Gulecha
Age Category: 10 to 13
Second runner-up: Saanvi Raju
First runner-up: Bhadra Jayakrishnan
Winner: Janatul Riya Saba
Age Category: 14 to 17
Second runner-up: Richa Thakur
First runner-up: Noel Shaiju
Winner: Abhinav Suresh