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Annual awards recognise lifetime achievement and contribution to arts and culture

Left to Right H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, Amin Maalouf, Hazza Ahmed Al Kaabi, Charge d'Affaires at 1st Mar 2016

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation honours celebrated writer Amin Maalouf, acclaimed dancer Sylvie Guillem and renowned composer Gabriel Yared with Abu Dhabi Festival Awards

Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the 2016 Abu Dhabi Festival Awards in association with Chopard, have been bestowed upon the celebrated French writer, Amin Maalouf, acclaimed French ballet dancer, Sylvie Guillem, and the world renowned composer Gabriel Yared. Following in the footsteps of Plácido Domingo, Gustavo Dudamel and Quincy Jones, the awards are presented in recognition of outstanding lifetime achievement and contribution to arts and culture. This year’s presentations took place ahead of the 13th edition of Abu Dhabi Festival, which celebrates France as the Country of Honour.

Commenting on the Abu Dhabi Festival Awards, which are presented annually by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF), H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture & Knowledge Development and Patron of ADMAF, said: "The Abu Dhabi Festival is committed to honouring pioneers in the field of arts and culture. It reflects Abu Dhabi’s vision – to embed a culture of creativity and excellence, and in doing so, creating a nation of innovators. When the Abu Dhabi Festival bestows the Award upon Amin Maalouf, it celebrates the rich history of the Arab people and their pioneering role in the dialogue of civilisations. Maalouf’s writings are characterized by meticulous research that highlights the relationship between identity, East and West. The Abu Dhabi Festival Award to Sylvie Guillem reflects the UAE’s modernity and its dedication to creative innovation and in contributing to a cultural renaissance. The Abu Dhabi Festival Award to Gabriel Yared is a symbol of the importance of a unified creativity, one that brings Arabic and Western approaches together. The recipient of multiple awards, Yared’s music is a blend of essences and originality traversing East and West.”

H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and the Abu Dhabi Festival bestowed the awards during a visit Europe. Commenting on the awards, she said: “Each year, we honour some of the world’s most outstanding contributors to the arts. As this year’s Abu Dhabi Festival celebrates France as Country of Honour, I am delighted to travel to Europe to present the 2016 Abu Dhabi Festival Award to three of France’s most esteemed and cherished artists. From Amin Maalouf and the rich literary heritage he has created, to Sylvie Guillem and her lifelong commitment to both dance and conservationism, to Gabriel Yared and his prolific compositions for some of most memorable films in recent history, we are honoured to recognise their remarkable achievements.”

The Oscar-winning, French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared received the Abu Dhabi Festival Award on February 23 at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris.  With an impressive film career that includes scores for such films as Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Message in a Bottle, Chocolat, City of Angels, The English Patient and Kahlil Gibran’s the Prophet, Yared is one of the most respected and renowned composers in film today.

Commenting on the Award, Mr Yared said: “I am truly honoured to receive the Abu Dhabi festival award for my contribution to music. I feel that the Abu Dhabi festival is one of huge cultural significance, leading the way and influencing music and the arts in the Middle East and the world. It is with great pleasure and gratitude I receive this recognition from founder H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo.”

Lebanese-born French author Amin Maalouf was presented with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award on February 26 at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris. With a rich career that has seen him travel the world covering events from the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy to the last battle of Saigon, Maalouf has spent the majority of his life in Paris from where he has written many acclaimed literary works – inclusive of novels, essays and opera librettos – and which have subsequently been translated into more than 40 languages. 

Commenting on the Award, Mr Maalouf said: "We all know that the biggest challenges facing the world today are cultural. Yet the solutions will also come from culture. In my eyes, this is essential. Today, we are living in a world that is trying to find its path. It is developing technologically, scientifically and sometimes economically. However, finding a reason to exist and a vision for the future has been completely left out. Therefore, I would like to thank you for putting so much time and effort into culture. This is what is really important.”

Presented in recognition of her outstanding contribution to dance and environmental advocacy, French ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem accepted the Abu Dhabi Festival Award on February 29 at the Connaught Hotel, London. Celebrated as one of the most acclaimed dancers of her generation, Guillem gave her final performance in December 2015 following a rapturous career spanning three decades, which saw her being made the youngest ever étoile – or top-ranking dancer – at the Paris Opera Ballet at 19 years old. The Abu Dhabi Festival Award also recognises Guillem’s extensive work as an ecological activist, dedicated to protecting ocean wildlife.

Commenting on the Award, Ms Guillem said: “I feel fortunate and privileged to have been able to do freely something that, from an early age, has become a real passion. For 40 years it is where I put all my effort, love and dedication. I have also been lucky to see a lot of the world and to know that if man is able to do terrible things, he is also able to change and evolve, be beautiful, creative and compassionate. Sharing and giving is what I tried to do for many years on stage and I will continue to work off stage for the voiceless; for nature and preservation of animal life. I am really proud to receive this award for a career which was only pure pleasure.”

Taking place throughout April 2016, the 13th edition of Abu Dhabi Festival, organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, will present internationally acclaimed artists including Natalie Dessay and Laurent Naouri in Recital (10 April), Lang Lang in Recital (14 April), Orchestre de Paris (15 and 17 April), and Carlos Acosta and Friends (25 - 26 April) as well as the world premiere of The Little Prince concert performance (21 and 22 April).

For further information on tickets, schedules, venues and performances please visit the Festival website www.abudhabifestival.ae. Abu Dhabi Festival can also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.