Peace and prosperity is the sweetest fruit of all and at its source is tolerance. The declaration of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance makes perfect sense coming on the heels of the Year of Zayed, as it is testament to the Founding Father’s belief in the culture of understanding and inclusion as the most powerful remedy to counter global prejudice, hatred, extremism and violence.
Tolerance is critical in ensuring a peaceful co-existence among increasingly diverse communities. The mutual respect that results in diversity has become a pillar of our society and one of the greatest achievements of our young country. As Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, once said, the UAE and tolerance are “two sides of the same coin”. Tolerance offers a space for peace and dialogue in a nation where some 200 nationalities live side by side in harmony and togetherness.
Yet tolerance is far from being a given. It might be easy to embrace in theory but far harder to implement practically. It is hard work. The easier path to take is that of bigotry, suspicion of the other, enmity and exclusion. This is why conflict, misunderstanding and acrimony seem to rule in the world today.
Indeed, tolerance is a leap of faith towards all that is good in human nature. It is a refusal to be frozen by fear of the “other” and an understanding that diversity is not a threat to who we are. It is a decision to be curious about differences while looking for common ground.
Like many other cultures, the Arab and Islamic world has a long tradition of thinkers and leaders who had the audacity to embrace tolerance. When the Emir Abdelkader saved thousands of Christians from certain death in Damascus in the 19th century, he was asked how he, a Muslim, could raise arms against other Muslims to save Christians. He famously answered that he was specifically doing his duty as a Muslim in saving those Christians.
History provides us with many examples of religions and civilisations colliding in aggression and conflict. But neither are inevitable nor necessary. Conflict, aggression and intolerance are a decision. There can be no “clash of civilisations” unless those civilisations choose to clash. From Sultan Salah Eddine Al Ayoubi to Martin Luther King, from Nelson Mandela to Sheikh Zayed, those who demonstrated togetherness as a way forward set the standard and encouraged us to follow their example. In the UAE, this is evident in the creation of a Ministry of Tolerance, the first of its kind in the world.
The Year of Tolerance is a fitting theme for a cultural organisation such as Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, as we celebrate the diversity that is the cornerstone of the union of our great nation. We have chosen to invest, as Sheikh Zayed did, in the fabric of culture – in artists, in youth, and in the creative spirit.
In its commitment to establish strong foundations for a peaceful co-existence, the UAE is to welcome Pope Francis next week, at the invitation of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, for the first time ever in the Arabian Gulf. Sheikh Mohamed stressed “that nations built on values of tolerance, love and respect achieve lasting peace”. This is a crucial step in putting that policy into practice.
As Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance said: “Pope Francis will be visiting a nation that has learned the instrumental value of tolerance…where our remarkably diverse population resides in peaceful and productive harmony, sheltered by a spirit of respect and empathy.”
We at Admaf have been firsthand witnesses to all that culture can achieve in terms of tolerance, understanding and co-existence. At any given show, what we enjoy is far more than a first-class performance. It is an ongoing conversation between those onstage and the audience, because culture is the very essence of tolerance.
This year, the flags of 17 nations will be raised on the Abu Dhabi Festival stage, including those of France, the US, the UK, Tunisia, Russia, Lebanon, Syria, Germany, Palestine, Spain, Italy, Latvia and Liechtenstein. We are also set to host artists from around the globe. In this celebration of global cultures, the festival – like the country itself – acts as a dialogue between civilisations, building bridges between artists, intellectuals, innovators and audiences. In doing so, it sends a message of love and peace from the UAE to the world; a message that says we are people committed to fostering creativity and openness, and promoting connections that bring individuals together as brothers and sisters bound by humanity. The festival is our way of saying to world: our Abu Dhabi, our home, for all. So welcome, Pope Francis, to your home.
Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo is founder of Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Festival
Abu Dhabi Festival’s programme of international commissions commenced on 27 January 2019 at the Komische Oper Berlin, Germany, with Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece, La Bohème. Co-produced by the Abu Dhabi Festival 2019, the eclectic evening of one of the most moving stories in the history of musical theatre was attended by H.E. Ali Abdulla Al Ahmed, UAE Ambassador to Germany and H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival. Through collaborations with international strategic partners and leading global cultural organisations, Abu Dhabi Festival enables the creation of cultural initiatives that bring countries together and enables the appreciation of diverse societies. Expanding upon the international presence seen in past years, this year’s line-up will include extensive performances across Germany, Spain, UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany and Oman.
Do you have the desire and curiosity to find, write and edit stories that have the potential to inform and transform the minds of readers? Are you a UAE national between the ages of 20 and 35 interested in developing your talents in media content creation, editing, and reporting? If so, then apply to be a Young Media Leader. The young media leaders’ program is an experience-based career development platform for Emirati university students and graduates to enable them to gain the passion, conviction, skills and networks to become powerful and convincing storytellers, in order to build industry focused portfolios to take their media career to the next level.
This week 16 cultural managers/artists based in the UAE will form 8 collaborations/tandems based at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai. The candidates will find their Tandem partner with whom they will work on a collaboration project.
The enchanting winning artwork from “The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2018” finally unveiled at the NYU Abu Dhabi. The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, is an art award presented by NYU Abu Dhabi in partnership with #ADMAF. Open to UAE-based students, and graduates within the last five years, the Award was established to encourage the creation of new artwork in the UAE, to act as a launching pad for visual artists across the Emirates and to offer the winner an insight into professional life as an artist from commission to exhibition.
The ADMAF Pavilion at Abu Dhabi Art exhibited artworks that highlighted the Founding Father’s core values (Wisdom and Peace, Tolerance and Respect, Sustainability and Environment, Human Development and Knowledge, and Unity) in line with the ‘Year of Zayed’ under the theme ‘Zayed: The Soft’ showcasing a selection of artworks by Emirati and UAE-based artists.
As part of the Distant Prospects exhibition, five Emirati artists from ADMAF’s Nationals’ Gallery were sent overseas on a visual arts residency programme. Firstly they visited and met with the Princely Collections team in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, after which they headed to Vienna, Austria, to visit both City and Summer Palaces, which form part of the Princely Collections. Visits were also made to a variety of important Viennese museums including Museum of Modern Art Vienna (MUMOK), the Art History Museum Vienna, World Museum, Albertina, Kunstforum and Hundertwasser Haus. Through this residency programme ADMAF provided a vital opportunity for Emirati artists to develop and shape their artistic practice within an international context, while facilitating important cultural dialogue between them and their contemporaries overseas.
The public joined members of the Young Filmmakers Circle for an evening of short films from the Arab world, with a panel discussion on the art form, moderated by artist and writer Hind Mezaina, with filmmaker Amena Al Nowais, educator Greg Unaru, and partner of MAD Solutions Abdallah Al Shami. Screeners included: ‘Omnia’, Amna Al Nowais’ powerful short film that explores the psychological and physical effects of female circumcision; ‘Ave Maria’, a comedy that tells the story of the Nuns of the Sisters of Mercy – located in the in the West Bank wilderness, their daily routine of silence and prayer is disrupted when a family of religious settlers crash their car into the convent’s wall; and concluded with ‘Ayny’, an animated short film about two young boys who have run away from their mother’s protection into war, following their dream of playing an Oud.
In partnership with the Film and New Media NYU Abu Dhabi
Marking International Women’s Day, Celeste Schenck – President of the American University of Paris (AUP) – discussed ‘Women’s Leadership in the 21st Century’ with students of Zayed University, providing insight from her wealth of experience, accumulated over 25 years as a leader in the European education industry. The event also encouraged discussion and input from students, in a debate highlighting the importance of women’s participation and leadership across various sectors.
Celebrating Arabic literature, the annual programme culminated this year with the launch of 16 new works by Emirati authors, including works for children and fiction for adults. During the signing event, fans met the authors, discussed their works and received copies of the new works.