(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) It was a moment to cherish as His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. But this was not just another portrait of the UAE's founding father. It was a labour of love made of shredded banknotes worth Dh1 million, conceptualised by Mohammed Abdullatif Galadari, Director of Galadari Brothers, and executed by Emadeldin Abdelsalam, Khaleej Times artist.
After Sheikh Mohamed posted on social media the photo of him receiving the 50cmx70cm objet d'art from Galadari, the post went viral, amassing 10,000 likes within an hour.
According to Galadari, Sheikh Mohamed told them that he had seen the video produced by Khaleej Times, showing how the mosaic was meticulously created. "He told us he liked the idea how we turned shredded banknotes into a piece of art, symbolising sustainability and paying tribute to the man who pioneered sustainability in the country."
Galadari added that "presenting Zayed's portrait to none other than the son of the country's Founding Father was among his proudest moments." He said he was impressed with Sheikh Mohamed's attention to detail. "His Highness was curious to know how long such a tedious task took," and that shows the straightforward and unassuming nature of our leadership.
How it all came to be
When Galadari received in November last year a million dirhams -- in shredded banknotes -- he knew they were worth something. He conceptualised creating a portrait of the UAE's Founding Father to showcase sustainability.
But the shreds of the banknotes were too small -- the 'large' pieces being no bigger than 0.5cm -- and colours were limited as they came only in shades of red, orange, blue and brown for Dh100, Dh200, Dh500 and Dh1,000 notes, respectively.
"From the moment I received the gift of shredded banknotes, I knew I wanted to create a lasting legacy with it," said Galadari. "With 2018 being the Year of Zayed and given the founding father's determined focus on sustainability, the idea to create a portrait of Sheikh Zayed with these notes to showcase sustainability then became an obsession with me," he said.
That's when Emad stepped in to accept the challenge of painstakingly sifting through and sorting out thousands of shreds over days just to identify the right colours and patterns that would help him fashion this stunning artwork.
Armed with tweezers, the Egyptian expat worked with precision that would put a Swiss watchmaker to shame. One piece at a time, he placed the different-coloured shreds and deftly glued them in the right place.
Emad said the first few days were really a struggle, sifting through and sorting out thousands of shreds over days just to identify the right colours and patterns for Sheikh Zayed's eyes, the crease on his forehead and the cleft of his chiselled chin. Emad initially doubted if he could accomplish fashioning out the artwork.
Hours turned into days and days into weeks before there was a breakthrough. The artwork began to take shape and with moral support from Galadari and his colleagues, Emad continued with renewed inspiration to finish the project.
It was a real conquest as he finished the artwork in under a month. Emad said he worked for the project non-stop for 21 days, even putting some hours during his days off.
And when the wait was finally over and it was time for Galadari's idea to come alive, it was an ultimate tribute to the legacy of Sheikh Zayed.
From the million-dirham shredded banknotes came Zayed: The million-dirham objet d'art.
'I never expected to meet Sheikh Mohamed'
After completing the daunting task of creating a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed, Emad did not expect that it would give him the chance to come face-to-face and shake the hand of the son of the UAE's Founding Father.
The royal appointment with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, happened on Monday at Qasr Al Bahr (Sea Palace) in Abu Dhabi.
Mohammed Abdullatif Galadari, Director of Galadari Brothers, presented to Sheikh Mohamed the 50cmx70cm objet d'art made out of Dh1 million banknotes, which were taken out of circulation and shredded to bits.
The meeting was a privilege that Emad said he would "cherish forever".
Before the meeting, Emad said he was nervous and overwhelmed, but he was more astounded after seeing Sheikh Mohamed driving his own car and parking it himself. Emad was stunned with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's modesty and simplicity.
"Sheikh Mohamed shook our hands and told us that he saw the video produced by Khaleej Times showing how the mosaic was meticulously created," said Emad.
According to Emad, Sheikh Mohamed asked him about the exact place where he grew up in Cairo. "What I found out was, as a great leader, His Highness would really show interest in you, whether you're big or small. He would listen to you and would never interrupt you while you were speaking," Emad shared of his once-in-a-lifetime experience with Sheikh Mohamed.
"In the end, it was a great fulfilment, an honour and privilege to present the masterpiece to the son of the country's Founding Father," added Emad, who has been living in Dubai and working at Khaleej Times for 12 years.