Many Emiratis live under pressure to find our identities between being members of big tribal families, proud of our heritage and culture, and being part of a modernised and ever-expanding country where every day we are more open to international business, and an ever-expanding community.
I don’t see the distinction between expatriate and local, I see community.
For an Emirati to be in that community setting is very important, to have that inclusion, and to see every one of us as a member of the community.
Rather than living in conflict and choosing one identity, the contemporary Bedouin in the UAE embraces being both an Emirati Bedouin with a rich culture and heritage and being a member of the international community.
I think our ancestors would have wanted things to be this way. This country was founded on principles of embracing one another, of unity, of being open to the world, but at the same time, being proud of our heritage and showcasing our unique identity to the world. By doing this, we are also in line with the leadership’s vision of tolerance and with visions for the future of the UAE in terms of connecting minds, which is the theme of Expo 2020.
The brand I’ve developed, Contemporary Bedouin, is a platform that covers culture, design and art in a way that celebrates the cultural movement in the UAE and internationally.
I want to engage more Emiratis in the creative movement that’s happening here. I want us to celebrate this identity, and I encourage Emiratis to take on creative and cultural roles, to take ownership of the great initiatives that are happening in the UAE and to celebrate that in their own way. I aim to educate Emirati communities in what it means to be involved in this sector, to break down barriers. A lot of us don’t participate because we don’t know what this cultural movement is about. We think it’s reserved for an elite highly academic or philosophical group, which is why some Emiratis are not as engaged as they should be. I’ve been visiting neighbourhoods in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and what I’ve found is that in the suburban villas of our neighbourhoods live some of the most creative Emiratis you’ll find.
I think it’s time for Emiratis to take a step back, to look at their environment, their heritage, their culture and families and see that as a base to express themselves through art.
So the content is very authentic and unique, but the tools can be very modern and contemporary. We’re on a race for modernity, but we have to take a step back and look at our unique selling points as a nation. It’s up to our communities to do that, to bring to the table our self-expression, as that’s where we become game changers.
I started porcelain doll-making a few years ago, then I stopped. I’ve recently started again and I’d love to make Emirati dolls that celebrate our personalities and cultural traits, and perhaps even icons from our communities. I would translate the essence of our culture into doll personalities.
* As told to Jessica Hill
Ahmed Alanzi’s brand, Contemporary Bedouin, calls for Emirati youth to find balance between culture, heritage and being members of a global community. Alanzi, who is 30, lives in Abu Dhabi.
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