Rare photos offer glimpse of life in Sheikh Zayed's court

NYU Abu Dhabi's photography archive, Akkasah, will host the collection taken by the Founding Father's aide, Butti bin Bishr

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A rare glimpse into daily life at the court of the Founding Father is to be made available to the public through a collection of digitised photographs.

To celebrate the UAE's 50th anniversary, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Al Mawrid Arab Centre for the Study of Art is launching a project that will start with 11 specially selected photographs taken by Butti bin Bishr during his time working with Sheikh Zayed.

Born on May 18, 1941, bin Bishr worked as the director of Oman Bank in Al Ain. He occupied a number of different administrative positions at the court of Sheikh Zayed, before becoming private secretary and then the director of his office.

Bin Bishr died on February 22, 2011.

The full collection, which is being unveiled in collaboration with bin Bishr's granddaughter, Maryam Al Falasi, will be released over the coming months.

It will include 723 photographic prints and 136 unique documents and letters that were created between 1968 and 1978 when bin Bishr worked for Sheikh Zayed. They offer a rare insight into daily life and diplomatic events at the Founding Father's court.

“The images and documents that make up this collection offer invaluable insights into the life and work of both the late HH Sheikh Zayed and HE Butti bin Bishr, and the years in which the Emirates emerged as a new and united nation," said Shamoon Zamir, founder of Akkasah, NYU Abi Dhabi's photography archive.

"The collection will be an important resource for both scholars and for the citizens and residents of the UAE."

In the 10 years since bin Bishr's death, his granddaughter has cared for his valuable collections of images and documents. Ms Al Falasi decided to approach Akkasah to appraise the archives, which took two days.

"I’ve always been passionate about this archive because of how dear these photographs were to my grandfather," Ms Al Falasi said.

"Digitising his archive is a way for me to contribute to his legacy and ultimately to the UAE’s history.

"Through the preservation of these photographs and documents, I’m honouring his memory.”

The archivists were able to perform a digitise-and-return collaboration in which Ms Al Falasi continues to retain the original items instead of them being put on display.

More than 2,800 images are online at Akkasah.org as a result of this kind of collaboration.

The archive is open to scholars, students and the general public by appointment.

Updated: December 01, 2021, 12:07 PM