Unesco conference on culture opens in Abu Dhabi with opera, poetry and Al Wanna

The event, running at Adnec until Thursday, seeks to identify a global framework for art and culture education

Singers Fatima Al Hashimi and Mayssa Karaa perform at the opening of the Unesco conference in Abu Dhabi. Razmig Bedirian / The National
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Emirati chants, young poets and a healthy dose of opera and jazz marked the opening of a Unesco event to expand educational programmes in arts and culture.

The Unesco World Conference on Culture and Arts Education launched in Abu Dhabi with musical performances that reflected the spirit of the event.

Bkheet Al Mahri and Mohamed AlShehhi performed Al Wanna, a traditional Emirati chant that blends poetry with melodies that evoke the pensive and melancholic. Singers Fatima Al Hashimi and Mayssa Karaa then performed a selection of Arabic and English classics with musicians from Berklee Abu Dhabi, including Ya Ashikata Al Wardi and My Favourite Things.

Young dancers, musicians and artists from around the world then took to the stage to perform and express the necessity of the conference in valorising art. The group encouraged the crowd of ministers and international delegates to perform alongside them, clapping and dancing along to Colombian and Kenyan rhythms.

The opening was an apt way to launch an event that prides itself on its international aspect.

Taking place until Thursday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the conference brings together 190 ministers of education and culture. The goal is to provide room for policymakers, UN agencies and international delegates to identify a global framework for art and culture education.

The Unesco World Conference on Culture and Arts Education is organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. It sustains the mission of the 2006 Lisbon Conference, which conceived the Unesco Roadmap for Arts Education, and the 2010 Seoul Conference, which delivered the Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education.

In Abu Dhabi, the conference aims to expand education programmes through talks and discussions.

Topics include making culture and arts education equitable; providing relevant and lifelong learning in cultural diversity; and incorporating digital technologies and artificial intelligence in arts and culture education.

“Building on a legacy of driving sustainable impact, we are proud to organise this strategic milestone event that fosters dialogue within the global culture and arts education landscape,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT – Abu Dhabi.

“Aligning with the ideals of the conference, we continue to harness the power of programmes and partnerships that encourage lifelong education and skill-building within arts and culture while ensuring equitable access. The Framework for Culture and Arts Education will provide a clear guiding reference for member states to drive this in and beyond school curricula.”

Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi, the UAE Minister of Culture, said he was confident that a framework will be identified and which could be adopted across Unesco member states.

“Through our strong collaboration with Unesco, we are confident that the outcomes of this gathering will lead to the implementation of a comprehensive cultural and arts education framework, ensuring its widespread adoption,” he said.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 10:26 AM