Abu Dhabi Festival founder and artistic director Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo talks about this year’s edition

The festival has established itself as a regional leader in the arts and attracted international praise and admiration.
Abu Dhabi Festival founder Hoda Al Khamees Kanoo. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival
Abu Dhabi Festival founder Hoda Al Khamees Kanoo. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival

The Abu Dhabi Festival returns this week with its 12th edition, offering another month-long feast of music and theatre, along with exhibitions by leading and up-and-coming artists.

The festival has established itself as a regional leader in the arts and attracted international praise and admiration, but the founder and artistic director Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo says that each year presents new ­challenges. Not that she’s complaining – she says the continual efforts to innovate are worth striving for.

How big is the task of creating the festival programme each year?

It is always a challenge putting on each edition because you have to know the cultural pulse of Abu Dhabi. You have to know what people are thinking about in terms of arts and culture and you then bring the right artists to attend. Each festival has a specific recipe and that changes with each year.

The festival opens on Tuesday with the newly introduced recital series that will be held in an intimate venue at Emirates Palace. What motivated you to add this youth-focused strand to the music programme?

That is really all about supporting young talents. These young artists will not only perform in the evening, but during the day they will visit schools and work with other young artists and musicians. You know, there is something beautiful when the young talk to the young. It is a different conversation and form of sharing that can only elevate their experiences and understanding of music and art.

Tell us about this year’s theme – Idea: Seed of Invention.

I am a believer in big ideas and with this theme, we are talking about the nature of ideas. With the artists we are showcasing in the festival, all of them are innovative because they not only came with great ideas, but they sacrificed for them and worked hard to achieve them with complete determination.

What is it about Sérgio Mendes that made him a worthy festival headliner?

He is one of the fathers of bossa nova. He made a difference to the lives of many people and his music has survived for generations. Him coming to Abu Dhabi and telling his story through his music will unite us in a force of good. He will also speak to young Emiratis and improvise with them – it will be unbelievable.

This year you commissioned the Emirati artists Noor Al Suwaidi and Fatma Lootah to create a special artwork that will be unveiled on March 20. What can you say about the project?

Lootah is really one of the pioneers of visual arts in the region and she lives in Rome. She is another crossover artist who does amazing things, blending East and West. Al Suwaidi was educated in the United States and now lives in the UAE. The idea to bring them together actually brings two generations together and we wanted to see their perspectives. This is something I really want people to discover because they both have a lot to say.

• The Abu Dhabi Festival runs from Tuesday until April 2. For the full programme and ticket details, visit www.abudhabifestival.ae and www.timeouttickets.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Published: February 28, 2015 04:00 AM

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