TREASURE TROVE

Kuwait 2017 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Ali Hussein Al Youha, Secretary-General of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, on the activities of the Council and works to preserve and enhance Kuwait's cultural heritage.

Eng. Ali Hussein Al Youha
BIOGRAPHY
Eng. Ali Hussain Al-Youha has been the Secretary-General of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters in Kuwait since 2011. He believes strongly in bridging communication gaps through the promotion of cultural and media cooperation. Prior to his appointed, he served as the organization’s deputy for five years. He holds a master’s degree in civil engineering and a diploma in Russian to Arabic translation.

NCCAL has been around since 1973, mandated to coordinate educational, literary, artistic, and cultural development in Kuwait. Could you tell us more about what your activities here include?

The decree of establishing the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters sets out various tasks that have contributed to raising the cultural landscape in the State of Kuwait. It preserves, documents, and publishes popular heritage, as well as encourages reading and writing. It supports intellectual and cultural creativity locally, within the Arab region, and worldwide. The Council sponsors 10 annual festivals that deal with theater, cinema, literary writing, children, youth, archeology, book fairs, and fine art. It also organizes many internal and external cultural weeks in application of over seventy bilateral cultural agreements between many countries around the world.

The recently announced “New Kuwait” initiative aims to raise the bar of the nation's international standards across the board, setting the nation's long-term objectives in five strategic directions. How do you envision this new strategic plan to part of the policy for the cultural sector?

Cultural activity and action is a fundamental part of the development plan. The Council plays an important role in this regard, especially in preserving national identity, supporting heritage, caring for children, and cultivating their cultural and artistic talents. We will also have a role in sponsoring about 48 public libraries throughout all the regions in Kuwait, which requires a double effort to activate them. There is also significant activity in tourism support through cultural festivals, museums, and historical buildings, as well as the remarkable activity of archeological excavations that revealed ancient civilizations in the country's lands and islands.

The Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center was opened last year as a world-class theater quarter and a new symbol of Kuwaiti architecture. Together with the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, it forms the new national cultural district. How do these and other initiatives shape the Kuwaiti cultural identity?

Without a doubt, a new edifice created to serve the cultural movement will add a material and moral balance to Kuwait's developmental structure. The leading buildings mentioned in the question, as well as the other buildings under the council's leadership, ultimately achieve a nominal goal, which is serving the public, meeting their cognitive and cultural needs, and improving their artistic taste. Furthermore, if Kuwait develops cultural centers similar to the Jaber Al- Ahmad and Abdullah Al- Salem Cultural Center, it will prepare a qualitative leap for cultural work.

Kuwait became UNESCO's Islamic Cultural Capital, aimed at boosting cultural knowledge amongst the youth. Could you tell us more about the interaction with UNESCO and the recognized Islamic cultural heritage? How does NCCAL interact with other Arabic cultural centers?

The Capital of Islamic Culture is a title awarded by ISESCO to Kuwait in 2016, and it is a tribute to a history of more than 60 years of cultural interest in Kuwait before and after its independence. This title is an opportunity to highlight the interrelationships between people in the Islamic regions, and not only Arab regions, for through this celebration elements embedded in Islamic civilization can be highlighted, including in science, culture, civilization, urbanization, and cooperation and interaction with different communities. In 2016, the Council was able to provide 826 service activities for this event and succeeded in highlighting the beautiful values enjoyed by the Islamic civilization.

What are your primary ambitions for the year ahead?

We will continue to work on what has been built in the past five years in many cultural fields. We will give priority to the subject of reading for children, paying attention to public libraries, strengthening cooperation with civil society institutions and building partnerships with the private sector. We also plan to strengthen tourist activity through giving attention to historic and heritage centers that fall under the council's supervision. We also aim to train our staff to keep up with developments in the field of culture, and to increase interest in youth production throughout many areas.