LONDON // A centre for traditional arts to be established in Abu Dhabi is getting a little help from the heir to the British throne. The centre promises to become a regional centre for reviving, teaching and producing traditional art forms that are in danger of being lost.
It was propelled forward yesterday, during a ceremony in London at Clarence House, the official residence of Charles, the Prince of Wales, when the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) and the Prince's School of Traditional Arts signed an agreement for a feasibility study of the logistics involved in creating such a centre. The prince and Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, chairman of the TDIC, joined the delegates after private discussions during which Prince Charles said there was "a hunger" for traditional arts, particularly in the Middle East.
Sheikh Sultan said: "Abu Dhabi aims to develop into a unique and culturally inspiring destination. "We anticipate that the new centre will address the need among the emerging generation of young UAE nationals and residents to better understand the cultural heritage of the region and appreciate it in the context of their contemporary lives." The Prince's School of Traditional Arts (PSTA), a charity that has already started a flourishing programme for students in Egypt, aims to encourage participation in such areas as Islamic architecture, icon painting, tile making, stained glass and mosaic craft.
Patricia Araneta, the director of the PSTA programme, said after yesterday's signing: "The prince's aim is to help reach out to like-minded individuals, particularly in the Arab world and Asia, who are determined not to see traditional arts and crafts die out. "We hope we will be able to help establish in Abu Dhabi a centre that not only teaches primary and secondary school children, but also helps working craftsmen and women develop.
"Really, it is about helping the area generate more sense of heritage and confirm its cultural identity." Lee Tabler, the chief executive officer who signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the TDIC, said: "This feasibility study will ensure our new cultural arts centre will be positioned as a leading educational hub for traditional arts and regional cultural resource. "Specifically, the new centre will position Arab culture within a global context while allowing visitors to experience the significant influence it has had historically, and continues to have on contemporary world culture."
Khaled Azzam, director of the PSTA, said he believed that the school's experience, gained over the past quarter-century, could "add tremendous value to Abu Dhabi by providing self-sustaining educational platforms which help support the regeneration of local crafts and communities". The initial stage of the feasibility study will involve an evaluation of the academic requirements for a traditional arts and crafts centre and how best it might help the community.
Stage two will involve workshops and seminars to be held throughout Abu Dhabi this year. The final stage will include the building of a crafts production centre and the accreditation of courses by the UAE academic authorities. The scheme would not simply be about teaching traditional skills to young people and others, but would also be about producing crafts and work of arts that could be incorporated in public buildings, hotels and other establishments throughout the UAE, said Mr Azzam.