UAE and France to launch Emirati-French Cultural Dialogue

A six-month series of themed concerts, workshops and festivals that aim to encourage cultural exchange between the UAE and France will kick off on Saturday.

The launch of the Emirati-French Cultural Dialogue will be held at Louvre Abu Dhabi and will be attended by Edouard Philippe, French Prime Minister, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, and Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State.

The joint government initiative runs from February to July during which lectures, music festivals and educational initiatives will be held across the country to promote Arabic and French.

The cultural dialogue builds on the Emirati-French Cultural Programme, which was first announced in 2016.

This year, the programme will turn its focus to art and artificial intelligence and protecting endangered cultural heritage.

In December 2016, the two countries teamed up to form the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (Aliph) Fund during the Abu Dhabi International Conference on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Danger - an initiative both governments say they will continue to support to finance tangible initiatives.

A year later, the countries formed the Aliph Foundation, to protect endangered cultural heritage in conflict areas. The foundation aims to raise $100 million (Dh367.3m) before 2019. Seven countries, including France and the UAE, pledged $75 million, to protect culturally significant sites, fight illicit excavations in countries such as Iraq and Syria and fight illegal trafficking of objects to Europe through Turkey and Lebanon.

The alliance’s objective is to implement prevention efforts to ensure the protection, conservation and restoration of cultural property during conflict and to rehabilitate damaged sites. The two countries are expected to announce the first projects to be supported by the Foundation.

To date, dozens of events have been held to celebrate cultural co-operation between the two countries.

A Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra concert was held in 2016 that featured original Emirati-French compositions, a theatre company was formed with the "Conservatoire national supérieur d'art dramatique", and last year, thirty horses from the Versailles equestrian Academy - one of France's most prestigious equestrian academies - took part in performances in Al Ain.

A pyrotechnics show imagined by Groupe F performed at the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in November, and a month later, a contemporary art exhibition called "Co-Lab: Contemporary Art and Savoir-faire," - a collaborative project focusing on a cooperation between four UAE-based artists and four well-known historical French manufacturers- was launched at the museum.

Co-Lab is still on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, which is the most prominent cultural project between France and the UAE. Born out of an intergovernmental agreement between the two countries in 2007, the universal museum's opening to the public on November 11 last year marked a milestone in the development of the co-operation between the two.

Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired more than 600 artworks to date including individual works, series and collections, alongside major works on loan, in particular from 13 leading French partner-institutions. Louvre Abu Dhabi also offers four special exhibitions per year, and a rich programme of performances and talks.

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