CULTURAL GEM

Qatar 2015 | CULTURE & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, Minister of Culture, Arts, and Heritage, on preserving Qatari culture, building partnerships, and expanding the country's cultural influence.

HE Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari
BIOGRAPHY
Having studied in Cairo, Beirut, Paris, and New York, HE Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari emphasized his interest in foreign cultures. It was no surprise that he embarked on a career in diplomacy. He held the position of Qatari ambassador in Syria, France, and the US. He also occupied the chair of Delegate of Qatar to the UN. During this position, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the General Assembly of the UN at its 40th session and Chairman of the Special Political Committee. Additionally, he was elected Vice-President of the Committee Against Apartheid. Dr. Al-Kuwari has fulfilled the role of Minister of Culture of the State of Qatar since 1992, albeit in different forms. During his career, he has received Badges of Honor from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Syria, and Jordan. On top of that, he is the author of two books and numerous essays.

Qatar has seen great economic growth over the last decade, ringing in a new era for the country. How has this affected the local culture?

Thanks to the strong and clear leadership of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, The Father Emir and His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, the country has entered an age of prosperity. It is true that this development puts pressure on our national identity as the country is experiencing rapid change and people from all over the world are flocking to Qatar to build their future. The Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030, launched in 2008, anticipated these developments, and, thus, included a strong emphasis on the maintaining and preserving Qatari traditions and culture. At the same time, culture and creativity were identified as important avenues toward an innovative knowledge-based economy. I am confident to say that culture in Qatar is flourishing, as our national traditions are preserved alongside the many cultures that we welcome into our country.

How is the Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage reaching out to foreign delegations, and what is the objective of these international partnerships?

Ever since the creation of the Ministry back in 2008, we have actively sought international contacts to build our network. The emphasis on culture in Qatar is now being recognized all over the world and great artists are coming here to exhibit their works. This image is best represented by the growing international fame of the Museum of Islamic Art. This is all part of the national strategy to strengthen our tourism industry and turn Qatar into a cultural center in the Gulf. Aside from the direct impact culture can make on the tourism industry, we also believe that these cultural ties with other nations can pave the way for stable political relations. Being a former diplomat, I can confirm that these cultural partnerships help in strengthening mutual beneficial and peaceful international relations. We can achieve this through pursuing different partnerships. A clear example of this is the cultural years that we organize in which we exchange arts and artists from two countries for a year. In 2014, we organized a successful Brazilian year, and we are poised to follow it with an equally successful cultural Turkey-Qatar year in 2015. Still, besides these larger events we meet regularly with delegates from around the world to create mutual understanding and a network for cultural exchanges.

With an increasingly multinational population, what is your focus when it comes to raising children in Qatar with an understanding of culture and arts?

In working towards the QNV 2030, we need to inspire our youth to build a full and rich life. An important element here to that is to help them understand culture, the arts, and our heritage. We have proposed several decisions in Qatar to take care of the youth culture and we implement this together with other institutions. An example of this is the Childhood Cultural Center (CCC), which is a private institution with great public utility that was established by HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser. As for the Ministry of Culture, we play a pivotal role to play through a great number of child-oriented activities, books, and publications. Most of these books are stories extracted from traditions, and on which many authors have worked hard in order to publish in the proper form; a form that can address a child's requirements. Across the country we see art galleries organizing cultural and literary competitions for children, which we obviously support. It is also at this young age that we build international relations, since we recently organized the Fourth Arab-European Youth Forum in order to foster dialogue between cultures.