x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The women's majlis: history is part of art's way forward

Each month, we pose a different question to be debated by a series of female Emirati columnists. This month: How would you like to see the art and culture scene develop in the UAE?

How would you like to see the art and culture scene develop in the UAE?

December 2, 1971, marked the official formation of the United Arab Emirates, joining six emirates across the Arabian Gulf, finishing with seven emirates by 1972. However, that did not mark the starting point of the development of art and culture within the region. For decades, perhaps centuries, a breeze of cultures travelled through the country, from both the West and the East, continually inspiring the culture of the UAE.

Going back in the history of the country and beyond, the Arab tribes, the Persians, the Europeans and the Asians all came to the same land to make a better living. Through this interaction, the development of art and culture gathered inspiration from all those nations. It could be seen as a form of globalisation.

Art and culture hold a vast meaning. They combine the copious aspects of a nation's living. I think of them as forms of expression; people of a nation express their inspiration from their surroundings and from those who contributed to it, such as those from the far past. Our Emirati poetry may not sound like that of Shakespeare, but can be as romantic. Our folk dance may not be as refined as the waltz, but it surely includes passion. Therefore, the way we carry out our art and culture through tradition and other practices vary, but they still hold the fundamentals, those that have been inspired from other nations.

Today, exploring other cultures has become much easier as a result of many factors. Emiratis browse the internet like a catalogue, gathering inspiration from a cloud of cultures. Education has also played a vital role in this process. At Zayed University, I have enrolled in a course of art history that covers everything from the cave paintings of Europe to the beginnings of modern art, not to forget the historical contributions of Islamic art.

One can easily find inspiration through that catalogue of cultures as well. In fashion, what is "hot" in the West can be as "hot" here, but with some personal touches to adapt it into the community. The same can be said for art; for example, pop art is heavily appreciated within the young community, but replacing Warhol's tomato soup can with a bottle of Vimto instead, for example. There are art exhibitions held frequently throughout the UAE, and inspiration from elsewhere can be spotted in many of the artworks made by Emiratis.

The government of the UAE is highly supportive. New projects are constantly planned. One of the greatest examples is the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi. It will include museums of various cultures, including our own, put together into a bouquet to celebrate a new source of inspiration.

So to me, the development of art and culture in the UAE will strengthen the union of globalisation.

Myriam Al Dhaheri is a communications student at Zayed University, specialising in tourism and cultural communications.


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