In an exclusive to Khaleej Times, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, explains the significance of global culture and history in developing modern societies worldwide
Heritage forms the memory of our homelands and the identity of our societies through which we reflect on the significance of our global culture and history, evoking the priceless results of the collective human effort and establishing an intellectual and creative legacy passed down through generations. It serves as a bridge for understanding and communication among different people and cultures and a bedrock for developing modern societies worldwide.
Heritage holds great significance as a fundamental human value and an irreplaceable asset, and the UAE’s commitment to preserving world heritage landmarks is essential to its cultural and developmental agenda.
By establishing a robust institutional framework with clear goals and plans, the country has successfully safeguarded numerous heritage sites while realising multiple cultural and developmental objectives. The UAE is a proponent of heritage and of preserving it as a shared responsibility among all world nations, nominating a number of intangible cultural heritage elements that are now registered on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s list of global heritage sites.
But heritage preservation has always been a fundamental aspect of sustainable development in the UAE, and the nation’s success in this area has garnered global attention, positioning it first among Arab countries and seventh globally in terms of the number of intangible heritages elements registered with Unesco. To date, the UAE has recorded 14 unique and shared elements on the list of global heritage sites.
The registration of local elements, which include ‘Al Sadu, Al Talli, Al Azi Art, Al Razfa dance, Al Ayyala dance, Al Taghrooda and Al Aflaj, in addition to the palm tree, Arabic coffee, the Majlis, Arabic calligraphy, camel racing, falconry and Al Hada,’ played a significant role in introducing the global community to the UAE’s ancient and rich cultural heritage.
Through a range of cultural and societal events, the UAE has made significant strides in preserving its local heritage, which encompasses customs, traditions, wisdom, popular proverbs, arts, heritage crafts, and other elements. It succeeded in introducing the world to its rich cultural heritage by documenting its oral heritage and popular culture, most of which was learned from our ancestors who shared their history and heritage narratives, providing a glimpse into early life in the UAE.
Similarly, Dubai’s pioneering efforts in documenting and archiving heritage have been manifested in innovative ways, such as the ‘Faces of Hatta’ project that the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority launched to preserve the oral history and cultural heritage of the Hatta region by documenting and archiving the stories of those who lived in those days for future generations.
Dubai’s leadership, coupled with the richness and diversity of its cultural heritage, was showcased through the highly successful ‘Dubai’s Culture & Heritage’ project on the Google Arts & Culture platform. This initiative highlighted the emirate’s unique identity and creative spirit of the past and present and provided a global audience with a view into its thriving creative community, serving as the rest cultural portal for discovering the city’s authentic cultural identity.
The emirate’s dedication to preserving its rich heritage was recently underscored by the unveiling of Al Shindagha Museum, the largest of its kind in the UAE, by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This remarkable institution serves as a tribute to the global narrative of human achievement and offers visitors insight into Dubai’s storied past and venerable traditions. This museum captures the essence of the past, and its pavilions, houses, and halls serve as windows to the future, providing us with endless possibilities for innovation and creative thought, aligning with the forward-looking vision of our wise leadership.
Our appreciation for heritage stems from its intrinsic value as a cornerstone of our civilisation and its ability to spur the growth of a creative economy that invests in cultural elements and promotes sustainable development. The creative economy offers innovative avenues for employing talent, creativity, and knowledge, creating opportunities for promising young individuals who take pride in their identity and values. It serves as a means of diversifying income sources, promoting economic and social development, and overcoming economic challenges. As such, we recognise the critical role of the creative economy in building a prosperous and sustainable future for generations to come. Our rich heritage is a source of pride for us and a vital component of our civilisation and identity.
Though the UAE has made significant efforts to preserve and promote its heritage through various initiatives and projects, the journey of heritage preservation is ongoing.
The future of our cultural heritage relies on the enthusiasm and active involvement of our new generations, who, by recognising their role in codifying and preserving our oral heritage, will become vital contributors to our sustainable development and the preservation of our unique identity.
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