A six-month series of cultural collaborations between the UAE and France was launched in Abu Dhabi on Saturday by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
The inauguration, attended by Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, and Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State, was held at Louvre Abu Dhabi — an established example of successful co-operation between the two countries.
Under the UAE-France Cultural Dialogue 2018, numerous festivals, exhibitions and educational initiatives will be held in both countries starting February in a bid to promote cross-cultural exchange.
On Saturday, Mr Philippe spoke of the long-standing relationship between the two countries initiated by UAE Founding father Sheikh Zayed in 1971.
The prime minister toured the museum and discussed, with Ms Al Kaabi, ways to expand the scope of mutual cultural collaborations in line with the Year of Zayed and the Founding Father’s vision for a brighter future.
"I have just discovered an exceptional museum, with its architecture and originality," he said.
"This was the fruit of ten years of exceptional co-operation between France and the UAE. The result, as you can see, reflects our common ambition to utilise culture in better understanding the world and its diversity."
He also addressed the UAE's plans to reintroduce French language classes in Emirati schools for the first time since 1988, the opening of an Arabic language learning centre at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and plans for other initiatives to promote Arabic teaching in schools and learning centres in France. "Language is the bond that unites us, each in his own language," he said.
"Art, artificial intelligence, cultural heritage preservation, in addition to the promotion of the French and Arabic languages, are priority areas in our countries. We also support common French and Emirati values such as youth, innovation and creativity."
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Mr Philippe said several events will be held in France to raise the profile of the UAE, its people and artists, including an art residency exchange.
Ms Al Kaabi said the joint government initiative — which coincides with the Year of Zayed — would involve empowering talents, promoting values of creativity, innovation and artificial intelligence with a particular focus on the UAE’s youth community.
“I am humbled to be standing here at Louvre Abu Dhabi once again with a representative of France, a country with which we have developed such strong ties,” she said. “This year marks the year of our founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and also marks the year of the French-Emirati Cultural Dialogue. The overlap is fitting because Sheikh Zayed represented the values of collaboration and cultural exchange — something both of our countries represent.”
She applauded the role of French educational institutions such as Al Sorbonne for developing the global cultural scene and raising the awareness of culture to both Arabic and French speakers.
This year's cultural dialogue builds on the Emirati-French Cultural Programme, which was first announced in 2016.
The UAE-France Cultural Dialogue 2018 programme will turn its focus to art and artificial intelligence and protecting endangered cultural heritage.
Collaborative events will include multiple exhibitions at Louvre Abu Dhabi, including “Co-Lab: Contemporary Art and Savoir-faire,” — a project that focuses on a co-operation between four UAE-based artists and four well-known historical French manufacturers- currently on display.
Events across both countries include the Lyon and Sharjah’s Light Festivals; the My French Film Festival and Francofilm — two cinema festivals offering a selection of French and francophone films in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and The Parisian book fair, Livre Paris, which will welcome Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, as a guest of honour.
Ludovic Pouille, French Ambassador to the UAE, Mohammed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Department of Culture and Tourism, Jean-Luc Martinez, President of Musee du Louvre, and architect Jean Nouvel also attended the launch on Saturday.