Welcome to COMET

COMET (Communicating, Observing, Mapping Environments and Tolerance) is a research cluster aimed to collect, document and map narratives, heritage, and places, to consider cultural histories and sustainability issues on islands. It aspires to propose solutions and/or transfer knowledge engaged through art, design, and craft strategies. These strategies introduce traditional tools and experiment to bridge new technologies and introduce potential prototypes for arts processes and outcomes. Its approach encourages a collaborative and creative platform, incorporating the STEAM model for interdisciplinarity and co-existence approach for change and intercultural dialog.  

With a scope to draw comparisons within the collection of information from various Emirates, and the Gulf, specific departures focus on history, environment, urban change, heritage and sustainability. In the collection of data and documentation of UAE islands, stories identify sites as resting points for sailors, homes to fishing communities and places for new possibilities and future progress explored. 

The initial scope of research focused on two projects: Mapping & Re-envisioning Islands and Typographic Matchmaking for a Region/Place/Location. They consider the UAE, in particular the islands with historical and heritage prominence, focusing first on the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Students from Zayed University participated in trips to the island Sir Bani Yas to collect data and develop creative works that would promote the tenants of COMET. Islands around the globe will be added to this portal for comparison and knowledge sharing and plans to encourage new projects using shared data. 

The initial research developed through two projects. The first Mapping & Re-envisioning Islands research and practice-based creative project that will combine primary and secondary research on the history, heritage and environment of Sir Bani Yas Island, United Arab Emirates, the second, Typographic Matchmaking for a Region/Place/Location, a craft-based creative project, that uses the data collected to further develop branding or presenting a place an identity through the framework of heritage and sustainability. The projects were piloted through workshops with students and classroom assignments. Two field trips were taken to document and learn about Sir Bani Yas, and this followed with investigations with use of the interviews and visual images.

COMET’s online platform “Island Research Repository” is a portal to share and discuss data and creative projects on island research globally. The cluster uses several terms related to astronomy as an indicator to historical marine navigation mapping through star observation and as conceptual inspiration for mapping the future of the research of COMET. The cluster will establish the Creative Constellation & Archipelago Lab - part think tank, part platform - for community engagement, publishing, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas, connecting to other artists, designers, environment activists, scientists, and researchers globally.

Keywords: art, culture, sustainability, heritage, mapping

Share Your Island Images and Stories

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Share your experiences of island encounters. We are interested to hear your personal stories and findings on your journey to “islands”. Documentation of unique historical sites; heritage; tolerance; ecology, marine life and wildlife. Please upload images, captions, a 150 word story about the image you are sharing and your contact details so that we can reach out to you in the future. 


Principal Investigators

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Janet Bellotto is an artist, educator, writer and curator from Toronto and a Professor in Visual Arts of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises, Zayed University, Dubai, where she also served in a variety of leadership roles. Bellotto is an initiator in various collaborations that promote cultural exchange and was the Artistic Director for the 2014 International Symposium on Electronic Art hosted in Dubai, and founding editor of Tribe magazine, which publishes on photography from the Arab world. Inspired by narratives and locations, water is a constant theme in her installation practice while examining the ever-changing world that she travels. In her most recent work, she focuses on islands - their isolation and vulnerability - where her Sable Island project was published  in the book Our Ocean Guide (2017). Bellotto’s work has been exhibited in a variety of collective, group, and solo exhibitions internationally. 


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David Howarth is Associate Dean/Associate Professor of Graphic Design in the College of Arts & Creative Enterprises at Zayed University (UAE). David has a keen interest in all design related issues with a passion for Land art and natural/urban decay. His recent research work tends to focus on the environment, the evolution of man and his material wealth, pollution and its impact on our planet and the consequences this has on nature. Through this path he has established a letterpress studio within the Graphic Design program – the first in a higher education institution in the UAE. He has published papers on “What effect technology has had on a Graphic Designers thought process over the last 25 years.” and how introducing traditional technology into a teaching environment can further enhance a student’s creative experience and design thinking.



Marie-Claire Bakker

Ioannis Papavasileiou