Cultural Diplomacy in Focus at Art Forum

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent) Filed on March 21, 2009

DUBAI - Culture is an important tool that would improve diplomatic relations of the Arab world with the rest of the world, according to a group of local and international experts at Art Dubai.

As part of the ongoing Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum, the ADACH (Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage) hosted The Arts and Cultural Heritage: A contemporary view.

A series of interesting discussions were conducted amidst the presence of local and international delegates on Thursday.

Debating Cultural Diplomacy from the perspective of the Arab World, the panelists included Zaki Nusseibeh, Advisor, Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Deputy Chairman, ADACH, Abu Dhabi along with Dr Sami El Masri, Director of Strategic Planning Office ADACH, Abu Dhabi and Cynthia P Schneider, an expert and accomplished faculty member in the field of diplomacy. The forum was moderated by Andras Szanto, a senior faculty member at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Director NEA Arts Journalism Institute, Columbia University, New York.

Raising the issue of the Arab World’s poor image in the International circles, the above mentioned panelists highlighted the use of cultural diplomacy to strengthen Arab ties with the rest of the world.

Looking at the issue from an International perspective, Schneider pointed out that the post 9/11 events, people from the Middle East, Arab region and Afghanistan, have a iniquitous image in the eyes of the American public. She added that the main reason for this is because, “We do not have good international education in the UAE, we do not have the exposure as well,” said Schneider.

She noted that the Arabesque Festival, at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC which was held last month was an eye opener for the American population, and was a step towards the improvement of Arab-American relations. Schneider quoted veteran author Gamal Al Ghitani, the Chief Editor of Akhbar Al Adab who participated in the Arabesque festival in Washington, “I wept when President Obama entered the White house, I stayed awake till 3am in the morning to see the proceeds of the US elections, and I haven’t done that for an Arab election. We are at a new beginning.”

Speaking more on the improvements of Arab relations with the rest of the world, Zaki Nusseibeh said, “We do not view culture only as a tool, it is critical for our survival. We live in a rough neighborhood and wealth alone is not enough for survival.

“We need to develop the concept of living in fear for the other, instead of fear for each other. In this way, cultural projects would have more significant feeling, and change the terrible conceptions of the region in Europe and the US.” He added that education should look at worldly and philosophical issues, train to think critically and ask the right questions without fear.

“We need to bring education to a level that is international in nature,” added Nusseibeh.

Schneider also quoted examples on how East-West collaboration through art and culture was proving to be a success. “The Sundance Film Institute, Utah, partnered with the Jordan Film Institute for a screen writing workshop and the National Geographic had online Project Baghdad where youngsters were encouraged to take films of the civilian impact of the war in Iraq” said Schneider.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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