A panel discussion takes palce during the CultureSummit in Abu Dhabi. WAM
The third edition of CultureSummit Abu Dhabi has come to an end, with its inspiring schedule of panel sessions, interactive workshops, and artistic performances resulting in creative ideas and outcomes that will be translated into tangible positive change. Organised by Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), the event took place from 7 - 11 April at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi.
Over five days, CultureSummit Abu Dhabi 2019 presented a dynamic series of panel discussions and interactive workshops around the topics of art, media, heritage, museums, and technology, as well as cultural performances and networking events. This edition’s theme of ‘Cultural Responsibility & New Technology’ addressed questions of how cultural agents can be more engaged in addressing global challenges, and how creativity and technology may be harnessed for positive change.
Wrapping up the CultureSummit programme, and reflecting on the insights and outcomes of the previous days, was the Closing Panel and Remarks. This final session featured representatives from the event’s organisers and cultural partners.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said, “A major achievement of CultureSummit has been the unifying of goals. Participants have been deciding the future by listening, giving, and collaborating, and are leaving with a unified strategy. What we have learned from each other will stay with us, and we are poised to make a real difference to the future – moving from wishing to doing. We have been inspired to talk to our networks, and encourage everyone we know to focus on issues from the summit and help us find real solutions.
“The UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, before he created the UAE, he built a museum. This museum told the history of the region, and how we are all connected. Our cultural connections are things we continue to cherish and celebrate, and it is in this spirit that we created CultureSummit. An overall takeaway from the summit is a feeling of great optimism; that these problems are all of our problems, and we are going to fix them together.”
Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator, Asian Art, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum; Interim Director, Curatorial Affairs, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, noted, “I learned so much throughout this event; about connectivity, actively listening, and reconsidering my position in the world. A key takeaway is fluidity of thinking, and I truly believe that any problem can be solved by the coming together of passionate minds from differing geographical and professional spaces. We are at a critical point of shift; a time of radical cultural, technological and political revolution. At this moment of recalibration, we must formulate a new social contract, a call to action that starts with ourselves.”
Tim Marlow, Artistic Director, Royal Academy of Arts: “Listening is critical, rather than being offended and shutting other voices and opinions out. I believe that articulation of difference is important, and empathy does not preclude disagreement. One takeaway for me is that institutions can’t be everything to everyone, and shouldn’t try to be. There is a balance to be struck between institutional expertise and listening to outside forces, and this is what cultural institutions should strive for.”
Anna Paolini, UNESCO Representative in the Arab States of the Gulf and Yemen: “The voice of the youth has been a major theme of the summit, and participation from different age groups is something to consider for next year’s event. I believe the sessions have succeeded in establishing the importance and relevance of cultural heritage and the fundamental value it brings to people and societies. The last few days we have created new connections and new networks that will continue to move forward and address these critical issues.”
John Prideaux, US Editor, The Economist: “The UAE holds a unique position in hosting these conversations, and this event probably could not have taken place elsewhere in the region. I am grateful for the opportunity to have taken part in CultureSummit. Freedom of expression was a theme we touched on, and this comes out of tolerance and empathy. At its best, culture itself is about empathy, getting us past our focus on the individual and thinking about our role in wider society. Culture connects us to each other and to a broad sweep of human history, and contributes to mankind’s best moments.”
Afternoon workshops took place throughout CultureSummit, brainstorming key issues through a cross-sectorial thinking process brought forward by the participants. They focused first on elaborating on the major questions posed in the plenary sessions, then on seeking answers, and finally developing ideas for concrete and impactful actions that may be taken by cultural leaders, artists, institutions, governments and other actors.
The insights and outcomes gleaned from four days of ground-breaking dialogue are exploring the development of new technology to create Virtual Reality (VR) museums to provide greater access to cultural heritage and art, including the establishment of a pilot project in a nation in the Global South; establishing an innovative, paradigm-defining funding platform for talents and cultural practitioners to support financing models; establishing an international digital heritage database to be shared among researchers and museum professionals; and researching optimum metrics to determine the success of museums and cultural institutions.
These initiatives, to be discussed with the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi and CultureSummit partners, are envisioned as leading to a series of working groups and satellite events, with the aim of presenting the results at CultureSummit Abu Dhabi 2020.
The artistic performances on CultureSummit’s final day were from the Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group, a long-standing Pakistani Qawwali music band, and a demonstration of Al Ayyala, the traditional Emirati cultural performance.
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