Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

Cultural initiative helps Sharjah prisoners learn about UAE’s rich history

Exhibition unveils calligraphy, heritage and archaeological treasures of the Emirates

Prisoners in Sharjah learnt a thing or two about the UAE’s history after being allowed to attend an exhibition of some incredible artworks.

Inmates at punitive and correctional facilities across the emirate were encouraged to visit on-site exhibitions that were organised by Sharjah Museums.

On display were objects that reflected UAE's accomplishments in calligraphy, its rich heritage, archaeological wealth and Islamic civilisation.

Replicas of ancient camel figurine, incense burner, old writing instruments, heritage costumes and Arabian perfumes were also on display.

This is one among many educational activities, workshops and programmes offered to prisoners as part of our co-operation with Sharjah Museums Authority

Brig Ahmad Shuhail

Ancient cupping tools used in Hejama therapy, which was in vogue during the time of the Prophet Mohammed, were among the exhibits that drew a lot of curiosity.

The alternative therapy involves making incisions on the surface of the skin before placing suction cups on the small cuts to detox the body and improve its blood circulation.

Information about the exhibits were available in Arabic, English and Urdu.

“The exhibition inspired me to do my own gallery of these objects,” said Palestinian Mohannad, 31, who is serving a two-year sentence for using drugs.

“I’m a professional photographer and used to work for a big private company in the entertainment sector.”

He said such positive initiatives not only entertained and educate prisoners but also encouraged them to follow the right path.

“The tour took me to another world and made me think about how I lived my life before, and how my future should be,” he said.

Another inmate, Marwan, said he was unaware that such artefacts were displayed in Sharjah museums.

“I am an Emirati and I never knew about these objects,” he said.

The 30-year-old, who will soon be released after serving a two-year sentence for using drugs, said he has learnt a lot about his country’s heritage after visiting the exhibition.

“I honestly learnt more about my country’s heritage in prison than I did while outside,” he said.

“Once out, I will take my brothers to Sharjah Heritage Museum or Sharjah Museum of Islamic civilisation.”

The exhibition has inspired Mohammed, 23, also from Palestine, who is serving a life sentence for selling drugs, to read more about the UAE.

“I was truly surprised when we were taken to see it," he said.

"Such a beautiful show, I didn’t expect a thing like this would be done in prison.

“It has provoked me to think, to read, and to do better things with my long time here with the options provided.”

The exhibition, which is scheduled to run until December 31, is part of Sharjah Museums Authority’s (SMA) social responsibility programme and comes after a memorandum of understanding was signed with Sharjah Police in 2018 to educate inmates.

Brig Ahmad Shuhail, director general of Sharjah punitive and correctional facilities, said the aim was to give inmates hope and educate them about UAE's culture.

"We used to send them to museums but due to the pandemic, it was decided the exhibition is held here,” he said.

“This is one among many educational activities, workshops and programmes offered to prisoners as part of our co-operation with Sharjah Museums Authority.”

A one-month course held last May by Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, taught 30 prisoners the basics of Al-Roka and Al-Diwani Arabic writing style.

Manal Ataya, Director General of SMA, believes the initiative will help the inmates transform into better human beings.

“I truly believe that our programmes, exhibitions and workshops offered to inmates over the past two years help them build confidence and skills needed in their transition to a healthier, more independent life once released,” she said.

The exhibition has been organised in compliance with existing Covid-19 precautionary guidelines.

Updated: October 7, 2020 09:55 AM

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