ONE MIND AT A TIME

Kuwait 2018 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ali Hussein Al-Yoha, Secretary General of National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters (NCCAL), on protecting Kuwaiti folklore, encouraging investment in cultural tourism, and bringing the benefits of culture to every Kuwaiti's doorstep.

Ali Hussein Al-Yoha
BIOGRAPHY
Ali Hussein Al-Yoha was born in Kuwait and received his master’s in civil engineering from the Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow. Before joining the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters, in 1996, he worked as an engineer and head administrator for the Kuwait Municipality. Before being promoted to Secretary General of NCCAL, he served as Assistant Secretary General for the Antiquities, Museums, and Engineering Affairs Sector and as Director of the Department of Architecture and Engineering Affairs.

What are your operations in the culture sector in Kuwait?

In 1973, NCCAL was established as an independent organization administered by the Minister of Information supervised by the General Secretary. The council's goals are to support different cultural and creative business sectors; modernize and advance Kuwait's cultural structure, as well as its founding cultural centers; encourage reading and creative thinking for youth and children; protect Kuwaiti monuments, heritage, and folklore; and encourage investment in cultural tourism.

Which particular forms of culture do you aim to promote and develop?

The council aims to provide culture to people of every social background in the best way possible without exorbitant costs. Through its different sectors, the council works to maintain and take care of historical monuments, renovate museums, support publications, encourage authors and publications, sustain the status of agreements, and document the council's associations within other local and international cultural centers through dozens of cultural covenants. The council has achieved success in two different ways. The first is through a number of local activities and features in the last five years. In 2016, the council executed over 820 events, including artistic and cultural activities. Second, Kuwait was crowned the capital of Islamic culture as chosen by the Islamic Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ISESCO).

How do you promote reading among young people?

The council supports activities that encourage reading and writing among children. In the last year, 47 different activities were held in this domain. Different reading and writing workshops are conducted via specialized sectors or in cooperation with national groups and voluntary organizations concerned with children's affairs. The council provides annual awards through a variety of cultural festivals during the summer holiday, encouraging kids to read and write at the national level. Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah, an organization affiliated with the council, works hard to establish reading and writing workshops for children throughout the cultural season.

The council publishes many magazines. Who is your target audience?

The council issues two types of publications. The first are periodicals, and our distribution is 678,000 copies across the Arab world, of which 95% is sold. Second, we publish Kuwaiti authors in paper as well as electronically at no cost through the council's official website. The diversity of the council's publications is unique in a sense that it caters to all tastes and interests. The council is also keen to open up to global knowledge and literary production as part of its strategy and principles.

How do you support art creation and artists in Kuwait?

The council takes great interest in the arts through encouraging fine arts such as drawing, painting, calligraphy, and sculpting; audio arts such as music, singing, and theater; and kinetic arts, which includes dancing, circus, and puppet shows. The council holds the Kuwaiti Theater Festival and the Comprehensive Exhibition of Fine Artists annually. As a way of showing its appreciation, the council hands out gratitude and encouragement rewards for the most innovative people in these fields. The council supervises many artistic centers, such as the Free Drawing Studio, the Modernized Art Museum, the House of Porcelain, and others.

What do you seek to achieve through the cultural activities, festivals, and book fairs you organize?

The council holds an annual exhibition book fair every November. It is one of the most famous exhibitions in the Arab world and is the second-most important after the Cairo Exhibition. This exhibition aims to familiarize the public with new books and increase awareness of the importance of culture and its various branches, to educate the public, and to use culture and arts for intellectual communication between people locally and internationally.