APPRECIATING IDENTITY

Abu Dhabi 2017 | TOURISM & LIFESTYLE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture & Knowledge Development, on important projects, preserving local culture, and supporting creativity.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan is the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development in the new cabinet announced in February 2016. He joined the federal government in 1992 and held a number of government portfolios including Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Minister of Education. Besides his ministerial responsibilities, he is chairman of the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare. Al Nahyan received his education from the British Midfield School and Magdalen College at Oxford University.

The UAE is promoting culture and investing in knowledge programs. What were some of the ministry's flagship projects in 2016?

Culture in the UAE is defined by pluralism. The UAE has had unparalleled success with hosting visitors and working residents from around the world in a safe and accommodating environment. Regardless of country, race, or religion, millions of expats safely live and work in the UAE. As hosts to people from around the world, Emiratis draw strength from their cultural identity and have created a society that reflects their traditional values of hospitality and respect. Our culture has been strengthened by exposure to cultures from around the world, making us global citizens without losing sight of who we are. The ministry, therefore, underwrites the preservation of that culture and is dedicated to advancing an appreciation of that identity and enhancing the culture that has shaped it. We also seek to become a global center for promoting the utility and beauty of the Arabic language and for communicating an enlightened understanding of Islamic values. Supporting the great array of cultural activities taking place in the UAE can render a difficult task since the UAE is awash with cultural activity; nevertheless, we keep supporting the most prominent initiatives such as Dubai Expo 2020, Saadiyat Island with the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Zayed National Museum, the film festivals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, and the Abu Dhabi Festival organized by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation.

As the UAE becomes a center of multiculturalism, how is the Ministry working to preserve local identity and unite Emiratis under a single array of cultural values?

First, we promote Emirati self-knowledge. We need to know ourselves, we need to know other people and other cultures, and they need to know us. Dialog enables knowledge and understanding, and enriches culture. As our community opens itself to the acquisition of knowledge about others, the very culture of the community evolves. Its outlook broadens, its curiosity sharpens, its understanding deepens, its respect for others increases, and its commitment to its values strengthens. The peace and prosperity of the UAE depends on that knowledge and on respectful dialog among all elements of our diverse population. In the UAE, we have been blessed with leaders who understand that the imagination and creativity of the arts provide a wonderfully informative insight to culture. HH the President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has encouraged our country's artists and has signaled to the entire world the high regard accorded to the creative arts of our UAE citizens.

How is the ministry encouraging these new talents to explore their creative spirit?

The ministry is already implementing plans to promote and support many important cultural initiatives. We are building strong connections with established and aspiring writers and artists. We are forming oases of creativity throughout the country that will welcome artists from the UAE and abroad. In those locations, they can learn, create, and nurture their imaginations together. We are also encouraging all members of our communities to engage in personal cultural expression by offering skill development and artistic expression opportunities for everyone through programs in our Culture and Knowledge Development Centers. We have major international cultural initiatives with various countries in the world. The collection, documentation, study, and publication of UAE heritage are essential to the mission of the ministry and we undertake efforts to authenticate and publish major works and encyclopedias in various languages, organize heritage festivals, establish digital libraries, publish periodicals, and work closely with colleges and universities in making the study of UAE heritage a valued field of scholarship. The UAE intends to become a global center for the creative industries and the ministry will assist that development by holding cultural conferences, building strong regional and international cultural relations, and organizing an active cultural season in the ministry's centers throughout the country.