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The first-of-its-kind initiative in the UAE by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and the British Council empowers Emirati entrepreneurs for the creative and cultural industries in line with the UAE 2021 Vision

From l – r HE Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo, HE Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, and HE Philip Parham UK Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates at the CEF Graduation Ceremony 2nd Jun 2016

Cultural Excellence Fellowship graduation honours Emirati entrepreneurs following their completion of a two-year training programme

Twenty-three established and emerging Emirati creative professionals were honoured yesterday at a private ceremony following their completion of a two-year initiative by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and the British Council in association with Mubadala. Launched in 2014, the two-year Cultural Excellence Fellowship (CEF) sought to inspire and equip Emirati citizens with the skills and knowledge to pursue creative entrepreneurship and careers in the cultural industries in line with the UAE 2021 Vision and the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030. As the first-of-its-kind initiative in the UAE, the ‘Protégés’ and ‘Pioneers’ undertook over 180 hours of training and over 150 hours of mentorship with leading experts across four countries (UAE, UK, Lebanon and Kuwait).


Held at the Majlis of H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, the Protégés and Pioneers were recognised by H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture & Knowledge Development and ADMAF Patron; H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation; and Marc Jessel, Director of the British Council UAE.


The final part of the Fellowship saw Protégés present complete business plans to a panel of judges consisting of Sir Jonathan Mills AO (Director, Edinburgh International Culture Summit), Mohamed Abdul Latif Kanoo (ADMAF Advisor, Businessman, Artist), and John Newbigin OBE (Chair, Creative England), which included among others an Emirati cultural tour operator, a digital platform for contemporary Emirati identity; a playground development company, and an online art gallery.


Graduating students include Mohamed Aljneibi, Engineer at Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council; Ahmed Al Enezi, Manager at Dubai Design & Fashion Council; Waheeda Al Hadhrami, Manager at twofour54 Creative Lab; and Badria Al Maazmi, Survey Engineer at Dubai Municipality.


Following the graduation ceremony, H.E. Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation said: “It is with great pride that I watch these inspiring Emiratis graduate. As a not-for-profit organisation, ADMAF works tirelessly towards the capacity development of the UAE cultural sector through a wide range of initiatives. As the first programme of its kind in the UAE, we have worked closely with the British Council to ensure CEF’s success. To date, this is one of the initiatives that I am most proud of due to the commitment of the Protégés, the calibre of the Pioneers, and the long-term investment in the cultural development of this nation. It is inspiring to see the exciting paths these Emiratis are already venturing upon, and I cannot wait to see the ways in which they will contribute to the development of the sector and of society.” 


Offering structured mentorship and training over the course of two years, workshops addressed key subjects including Business Planning, Audience Development, Financial Management, Strategic Marketing, Impact Evaluation, Community Engagement and Cultural Sustainability. Sessions were led by representatives of leading organisations such as the Arts Marketing Association (UK); The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (Lebanon); The London College of Fashion (UK); Zayed University (UAE); MENA Design Research Centre and Beirut Design Week (Lebanon); Dubai Design and Fashion Council (UAE); and the University of the Arts (UK).


Commenting on the breadth of the programme, Marc Jessel, Director, British Council UAE said: “It has been an incredible journey watching the next generation of CEF Fellows grow into cultural leaders, and we are sure that we will continue to work very closely with them next year when our UK-UAE Year of Culture kicks off. We hope they will make a lasting difference to the vibrant cultural scene in the UAE.”


Saoud Karmastaji, Assistant Manager, Group Communications, Mubadala said: “Through our community outreach programmes and partnerships, we aim to empower UAE nationals to realize opportunities in various fields which are in line with the government’s vision. CEF is a key component of our collaboration with ADMAF and the British Council as it helps us support the development of well-rounded local talent.”


The Cultural Excellence Fellowship is co-owned and co-designed by ADMAF and the British Council as part of a strategic partnership that was signed by both parties in 2012. It is a long-term initiative and hopes to make a significant contribution to the shaping of the cultural and creative industries.