The history makers: new Abu Dhabi exhibition to celebrate achievements of Sheikh Zayed and Gandhi
A museum exhibit dedicated to the founding fathers of both the UAE and modern India has been designed to build a new bond between the nations’ younger citizens.
A ‘digital museum’, which pays tribute to both Sheikh Zayed and Mahatma Gandhi, the hero of Indian independence, will fully open in March next year.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE foreign minister launched a preview to the exhibition, celebrating the achievements of his father and India's great visionary on Tuesday, alongside Sushma Swaraj, the Indian external affairs minister who is visiting the Emirates.
Although Gandhi was assassinated, at the age of 78, more than two decades before the UAE was founded and the pair were born 50 years apart, the exhibition draws attention to similarities between the leaders. Qualities the pair shared included resilience, vision, oratory and a commitment to peace, the exhibition shows.
“They lived in different parts of history, but we realised the single greatest denominator between these two great leaders was love for their people,” said Birad Rajaram Yajnik, founder and director of the Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museums, and curator of the new exhibit. “We took that as the primary idea.”
The museum will be split into six ‘zones’ when it fully opens in March, in Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al Saadiyat, an arts and cultural centre. It will boast interactive exhibits allowing visitors to see and hear both Sheikh Zayed and Gandhi and highlight some of their proudest achievements in similar areas.
It has been designed in particular to appeal to younger generations. At the preview exhibition, one side of a corridor of digital screens displays information about Zayed with the other showing Gandhi’s achievements and statements in the same areas.
With Indians making up the largest population in the UAE by nationality and friendly links between the countries dating back decades, it is hoped the exhibition will appeal to both expatriate and Emirati audiences, who will then learn about each other’s icons.
“I often ask people in India ‘have you seen a photo of Mahatma Gandhi today’, and they say no,” said Mr Yajnik. “Sometimes I have to remind them that he is on every Rupee note.
“People want to learn more about him. He is our most important ambassador, he is almost seen as having created a formula for improving the world. So I think the Indians over here will be very proud to come and experience his life, and at the same time will be able to experience Zayed’s life in their adopted land.
“Personally, I’m very focused on the youth. I think the maximum change will be with the high school students, the university students, we want them to come and experience this. I think this is a starting point for people to find out about Zayed and Gandhi. Then, you have a generational change, which could be a game-changer forever for two countries.”
The exhibit will run for three weeks from March, with discussions underway about it going on tour to other places in the UAE, so it can be seen by as wide an audience as possible.
The idea for an joint exhibition about both leaders’ lives emerged earlier this year, during Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to India. On Tuesday, he toured the preview exhibit with Mrs Swaraj, who is seen as one of the Indian government’s most popular ministers, and a string of other dignitaries and officials.
Mrs Swaraj regularly engages with members of the public on Twitter. She was heard joking about her informal style with Sheikh Abdullah as she toured the museum preview, which will run until Saturday.