On the second day of the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, gave a speech to a packed auditorium in which she highlighted the importance of growing a cultural practice in the Emirates and put the spotlight on creatives in the region.
The three-day event is looking at the theme of Living Culture through the lens of practitioners and participants.
Al Kaabi began her speech by thanking individuals from the creative field who “are exemplary models of a living and breathing cultural tapestry of the UAE”.
Scroll through the gallery below to see more photos from days one and two of the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi
First, Al Kaabi made mention of Iranian artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, who live in Dubai.
The collective, who go by Ramin, Rokni, Hesam, and who also work as individual artists, have become regionally and internationally celebrated for their surreal and immersive artworks that include performances, paintings, animations and installations.
Al Kaabi noted that the trio “represent the contemporary UAE, one that celebrates cultural diversity, with boundless acceptance of the other”.
Through their practice, the artists are constantly pushing their work through research and experimentation to examine the many facets and intersections of culture, from collaboration, displacement, irony and politics.
Emirati artist Abdulla Lutfi, whose work has become synonymous with representing the UAE through a playful lens, was also mentioned.
Al Kaabi said he “looks at the world in an unconventional manner, with his distinctive black and white drawings and Japanese anime style uniquely reflecting a shade of life of our UAE society”.
Lutfi’s works, with their extreme focus on detail, are a dynamic representation of the world around him, observed as an artist on the autism spectrum.
The contemporary Sima Dance Company were also highlighted by Al Kaabi. The troupe were originally founded in Damascus in 2003 by celebrated choreographer Alaa Krimed, but are now based in Dubai.
Al Kaabi said the group “has successfully been able to collaborate with a wide array of well-renowned local and global cultural institutions”.
Krimed was inspired to create Sima after noticing a void in the Arab contemporary dance landscape, and has worked to expose Middle Eastern audiences to the art from.
In 2017 they opened their own space, Sima Performing Arts, in Alserkal Avenue and have since collaborated with many cultural institutions in the UAE.
Alserkal Avenue’s founder and patron Abdelmonem Alserkal, who was in attendance at Al Kaabi’s address, was also thanked for his contribution to the growing arts and culture scene in the UAE.
“He is a patron of arts. He is the founder of Alserkal and Alserkal Avenue, an arts district established as a cultural hub housed in a former industrial district zone in Al Quoz, in Dubai,” Al Kaabi said.
“He's a businessman, he had an industrial zone and he turned it into an artistic hub. I think the effect transcends beyond such a quarter, which really is a testament to his work, his passion and his team.”
Over the past 10 years, Alserkal Avenue has become a pivotal area for the organic growth of local and regional artists. It has also supported the ideation and development of many creative home-grown concepts and businesses, while also exposing the UAE to international cultural institutions and artists.
Al Kaabi emphasised the importance of culture in the UAE for being both a driving force for artists and creatives, and a home for them.
“A creative person, regardless of their nationality, religion or background is welcome,” she said.
“We are determined that our culture sector be an outlet of choice for creators from all over the world, so that they may express their ideas and for our museums and culture reports to be platforms for dialogue and discussion through arts.”
Al Kaabi also said at both the local and federal level, the Ministry of Culture and Youth has developed a comprehensive administrative system for the cultural sector where the message of sustainability, diversity and dialogue will be at the forefront.
This includes laws, legislations and the development of operational regulations to establish key infrastructure in order to develop a cultural environment in which creators of different nationalities and creative pathways can work together and have opportunities to grow and thrive.
Part of spearheading and cementing these plans was successfully listing three cities from the UAE to be part of the Unesco Creative Cities Network. Dubai is the city of design, Sharjah the city of crafts and folklore, and Abu Dhabi the city of music.
“These titles contribute to strengthening the UAE’s position on global culture and on the creativity map,” Al Kaabi said.
The aim of this work is to develop the cultural infrastructure of the country to provide resources, build cultural assets and make the arts more accessible to a wider proportion of society in the UAE, as well as abroad.
Watch: Culture Summit Abu Dhabi's opening day