Promoting creativity in the Arab world

Can the arts be harnessed to forge new identities for nations and at the same time open up dialogue on race, identity and religion? This, the power of creativity, was at the heart of Dubai Next, an interesting debate held at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London.

Hosted by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and to coincide with Shubbak, the biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture in London, the initiative is reviewing the role of the arts in forming nationhood. The focus of the discussion here is on ‘creativity and city culture’, looking at the country’s ambition to be a creative global hub through building a cultural infrastructure.

Given Dubai’s unique geographical location in the Middle East, it will be interesting to see how a dialogue with neighbouring countries will impact on the region as a whole.

Khalid Al Shafar at Shubbak, London


The synergies between art and politics are fascinating and increasingly relevant. In a recent interview, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed his mission to utilise creativity to exercise an influence on politics. Rama, a fascinating man and himself an artist, has been working with an international group of contemporary artists to do just that in another unlikely setting.

Rama noted that if dictators have historically controlled art, then there must be something in it that is threatening so why not unleash it and see what happens.

Nothing can change the world quite like art. And it makes complete sense to employ the experimental and exploratory language of contemporary art so as to make some sense of the contemporary world.

It is true that artists can think in a different way, perhaps in a less linear way than politicians and so the real world will benefit enormously from being exposed to it.

I like to compare it to being upside-down – your vision is completely altered in an inversion. Turn on your head outdoors and witness a familiar landscape transform into something utterly new, unique and magical. It changes your perception, your outlook on life.

Ultimately what Dubai Next is rightfully initiating is the importance of investing in spaces where culture, politics and art can happen naturally – feed off each other and learn from one another.

Nargess Banks

Read about the Shubbak Festival highlights here

eL Seed Calligraffiti for Shubback 2016
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