x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sheikha Salama: We should take enormous pride in our artists

For the first time this year, the Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation supports the UAE National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Here, in an exclusive interview, Sheikha Salama shares her thoughts.

For the first time, the Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation is supporting the UAE Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In an exclusive interview with Anna Seaman, Sheikha Salama shares her thoughts

Why it is important for you to support the creative industries?

I am passionate about the arts and believe strongly in their transformative power. Beyond my personal passion though, there is no denying that the arts are booming in our country. Though we are a young nation we have made enormous strides in the creative industries in their many dimensions. At the risk of being too self-congratulatory, we as Emiratis should take enormous pride that we have artists who are gaining in stature internationally, very dynamic art fairs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, a world-renowned Biennale in Sharjah, and now of course a permanent pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Why did you decide to get behind the Pavilion this year?

Over the past year we have invested significant time and energy into deepening the Foundation's strategies. It has been a fascinating and deeply enriching process whereby we have sought to determine where we can truly add value as a Foundation. We have articulated four strategic goals in our arts, culture and heritage programme. First, to support emerging Emirati artists at each stage of their development. Second, to create enriching opportunities in which the community can engage with the arts. Third, to support the great efforts of government in bringing the arts to the UAE and the artists of the UAE to the world; and fourth, to support innovative ways to capture and teach our rich cultural heritage and language to the next generation.

Mohammed Kazem will be representing the UAE in a solo show in the Pavilion. Can you make a comment on his art?

Mohammed Kazem is one of the pioneers in contemporary art practices in the UAE. He comes from a generation that has prospered since the mid-1970s, and his work is a testament of his individuality, his incorporation of new technologies, and his influence on the local artistic scene. I am a fan of his work and I believe that his career and development as an artist sheds a very positive light on the thriving art and culture scene in the UAE.

Under the Foundation's support, 18 young Emiratis complete an internship in Venice. How important is an experience like this?

One of the most gratifying aspects of The National Pavilion of the UAE Venice Biennale programme is the internship programme. So much of the work of the Foundation focuses on building human capacity - identifying, nurturing and supporting talented individuals.

This approach sits at the heart of our work because we know that when talented young people are given opportunities to grow, to expand their horizons and to stretch, that investment in them creates an enormous return benefit to society.

How long do you think it will take until we see an Emirati artist among the top artists in the world?

I cannot say with any specificity of course but it will be soon inshallah. Our journey with the arts in the UAE is new. But look how far we have come already.

For more of the exclusive interview visit the Scene & Heard blog here.