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In Arabic, ‘khair’ conveys an overall sense of wellbeing, combining the robust blessing of good health and the secure feeling of benevolence.  

2017 has been declared The Year of ‘Khair’ by our dear President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa to share the blessings of the UAE with its people – national and resident – and to extend this to people around the world.  We are blessed that this spirit to provide generous support to all the people in the UAE and beyond is the legacy of the Founding Father of the Nation, Sheikh Zayed.

It has been more than two decades since we began the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF). Our aim has always been towards developing the community in which we live through culture or, more specifically, the arts... visual and performing arts, music, poetry and literature. We at the Foundation believe that this is a substantial and important part of a thriving and beneficial society.

Sustained economic development is the bedrock for any country. The development of a nation’s human capacity is therefore integral to forging the strength of a nation. And the investment in creativity, knowledge and soft skills are vital to its prosperity. 

As we embark on the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival, we continue our journey of the last 14 years to embrace diversity and bridge cultures through the presentation of a broad, all-encompassing programme of performances across many disciplines.  Not only do we provide an effective platform to gifted, creative people here in the UAE, but we are also enabling many Arab artists in the diaspora.  This March for example, the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra will perform two concerts in Europe as result of direct support by the Abu Dhabi Festival.  This is followed in July, with a recurrent collaboration with London’s largest festival of contemporary Arab culture, Shubbak, featuring the world premiere of a chamber music opera and residencies for three Arab composers at the Royal Opera House.  Finally, in the German capital of Berlin this September, ‘Portrait of a Nation’, our major exhibition of contemporary Emirati art will be presented at Berlin Art Week.

ADMAF believes that we can all make a difference in an individual’s life, in society, and in the nation.  We continue to deepen our support of academic studies through scholarships, the fruits of which are ripening – such as Karima Al Shomely, the first Emirati woman ever to be awarded a PhD in Fine Art.  This year, we are very proud to have established the Abu Dhabi Festival Scholarship at the Barenboim-Said Akademie in Berlin, which is allowing the gifted Palestinian cellist, Faris Amin to study at one of the greatest music conservatories in the world.

Back home we must never forget the less fortunate.  Our exhibition ‘Silent Voices’ shines a light on the power of art therapy for women and children from the Ewa’a Shelters, a wonderful organisation that is dedicated to working with victims of abuse and human trafficking.

We aim to help in healing, using the power of music, through live performances in hospitals and special needs centre – encouraging disabled children to express themselves with confidence.

Our investment in the young, indeed our future and our most important asset, remains our proudest achievement as we provide ongoing creative leadership programmes such as ‘Young Media Leaders’ in which we empower those seeking careers in the media.  While our ‘Cultural Excellence Fellowship’ trains and mentors young professionals already working in the UAE’s cultural and creative industries.

Competition is the spark that drives determination for self-improvement and creativity.  We recognise just how exciting this can be and support initiatives from around the world.  The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award is one example in which we award an emerging visual artist to take a design from concept to reality.  Additionally, we host the ‘Design Commission’ for young Emiratis in the field of design and science as well as our creativity award for the visual and performing arts, literature and film.

The National’s Gallery is at the heart of ADMAF’s support for the UAE’s visual arts, whereby we have created a range of resources to advocate, nurture and support artists, including national and international exhibitions of their works and professional advice to improve their market potential. Furthermore, The ADMAF Art Collection now contains over a 100 works by Emirati and Arab artists.

In this Year of Giving, and as we approach the month of March and the official start of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival, I urge anyone who wishes to make a positive impact on our country to give back in whatever way they can, no matter what industry they work in. We shall be doing this through the largest celebration of arts and culture in the Arabian Gulf with over 100 events presented across the Capital and the country. 

The defining factor of our country is that we are a nation of many nationalities, languages, influences and cultures.  If it takes a village to raise a child and more than a few drops to make an ocean and if there is one thing I have learned over the 21 years since founding ADMAF in 1996, it is that ‘Khair’ (giving) is a collective endeavour that requires compassion, endurance, sacrifice, love and care.


Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo
Founder, Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation