VENICE, Italy, May 19, 2023 (WAM) – Sheikh Salem Khalid Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture and Youth of the UAE, inaugurated Aridly Abundant, celebrating the twelfth exhibition of the UAE National Pavilion at La Biennale Di Venezia International Art and Architecture Exhibitions and fifth participation in the International Architecture Exhibition. Curator: Faysal Tabbarah, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture
at the College of Architecture, Art and Design at the American University of Sharjah, Aridly Abundant will transform the pavilion space into 18. creating a backdrop for architectural provocations adapted to future global, arid contexts; thus responding to the theme of the Architecture Biennale 2023 “Laboratory of the Future”. The exhibition will consider how arid environments can be spaces of abundance, exploring the architectural possibilities in the arid landscapes of the UAE’s desert plateau, wadis and coastal plains in the Al Hajar mountain range and its surroundings.
Minister Al Qassimi stressed that his presence at the site showed his support for the UAE National Pavilion, a very important arts and cultural platform. It also shows how much importance the UAE attaches to its creators and the fact that the Venice Biennale is a very important platform for the UAE. This proves the support for the exhibition of both the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the nation.
Minister Al Qassimi stated: “2023 marks the United Arab Emirates’ 12th participation in the Venice Biennale, and our presence grows stronger every year. This exhibition is a testament to the UAE’s commitment to creative fields. It also shows how management is committed to developing a strong creative movement in the country and promoting arts and culture locally, regionally and globally. Supporting artists and architects and showcasing their work on prestigious international platforms also demonstrates the evolution of the local creative scene in the UAE. Our native talent complies with international standards and is recognized all over the world.”
The UAE has participated in the International Art Exhibition since 2009 and the International Architecture Exhibition since 2014. In 2013, the UAE government signed a historic deal to create a permanent national pavilion at the Arsenal, the Sale d’Armi.
Minister Al Qassimi commented: “The permanent presence of the UAE at the Arsenal – Sale d’Armi is one of the main venues of the Venice Biennale. Participating in this prestigious pavilion and presenting the best architectural works to an international audience is a source of pride for the UAE. UAE Wetland’s award-winning work at La Biennale Architettura 2021 (Golden Lion for best national participation in 2021) explored the relationship between waste and production on a local and global scale. A large-scale prototype structure made of innovative, environmentally friendly cement was inspired by traditional sabkhas or salt pans.”
Al Qassimi added: “La Biennale di Venezia is not only a great platform to promote UAE native talent, but also a platform to promote our cultural and artistic values. Architecture is an essential element of culture that says a lot about civilization, its past, present and future. This aspect is beautifully captured in the 2023 UAE exhibition titled Aridly Abundant, which draws from the past and builds for the future. It also contributes to strengthening bilateral ties between the UAE and Italy.
Our presence at the Arsenal is an important aspect of our cultural diplomacy, an essential tool in the current global situation. Cultural diplomacy can go a long way in breaking down barriers to communication and has the ability to promote long-term peace and stability in the world.”
Drawing international attention to life in arid and desert lands, the message of the NPUAE is deeply related to climate change. The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) to the UNFCCC will be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023. At COP 28, youth will also be at the forefront of climate policymaking and dialogue – Culture is another important element of the climate change discourse, with bearing in mind the need to protect the heritage and traditional cultural practices affected.
In this regard, the minister commented: “Our ancestors learned to adapt and develop sustainable practices to survive the harsh climatic and topographical conditions of the Arabian Peninsula. They learned to live sustainably and their lifestyle was in line with nature. Our culture is full of traditional practices that hold valuable lessons for sustainable living. Water was a scarce resource, even food was scarce in the desert, yet our ancestors not only survived but prospered and developed a treasure trove of traditional knowledge. We can tap into traditional knowledge and take a lesson or two on how to live in harmony with nature in a sustainable way.”
Minister Al Qassimi noted the continued involvement of the UAE in the global environmental debate: “UAE Wetland’s award-winning work at the 2021 Architecture Biennale explored the relationship between waste and production on a local and global scale. A large-scale prototype structure made of innovative, environmentally friendly cement was inspired by traditional sabkhas or salt pans. Similarly, this year’s exhibition presents stone building as a sustainable form of architecture for countries affected by climate change to explore and adapt to their own environment.
Commenting on the UAE’s cultural offerings, growing exponentially in both quality and diversity, and upcoming prestigious UAE projects aimed at transforming the landscape and weighing down the country’s cultural weight, he said: “Our forward-looking approach and the legacy of our ancestors guide our national policies and strategies that focus on building sustainable and inclusive communities. A nation with a rich cultural heritage, the UAE has retained its cultural significance today for two reasons. This is due to the strategic direction of our management’s policy and the talent and creativity of our people. The cultural and creative sectors are a key element of our nation’s development journey. A sector based on sustainable development drives a creative economy.”
Minister Al Qassimi stated: “Culture and creativity are considered the ultimate renewable resources, making them crucial to sustainable development. The launch of Creative UAE or the National Strategy for Cultural and Creative Industries to coincide with the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development in 2021 illustrates the UAE’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.”
“The Creative UAE or the National Strategy for Cultural and Creative Industries offers guidelines for building a robust creative economy infrastructure by enabling creativity and providing them with a conducive business environment. Talent is the greatest resource for the creative industries. Therefore, creating the right resources to develop talent is a step in the right direction. For example, the strategy provides for scholarships to provide training and education for young creators to pursue a career in creative fields. In addition, it solves creative problems and provides solutions to solve them. From funding to providing the right exhibition and distribution channels, the UAE supports creative projects from start to finish. The UAE National Pavilion is one such venture supported by the UAE government to foster creativity and talent,” he added.
Among its major cultural initiatives in 2019, the UAE launched the Sharjah Architecture Triennial as the first major architecture platform in the Middle East and Global South. He commented: “Art and culture have the power to bring people together. They promote cultural diplomacy and promote peace and stability. By fostering mutual understanding, trust and exposure to cultural diversity, cultural diplomacy contributes significantly to strengthening international relations in many areas of cooperation. Initiatives such as the Sharjah Architecture Triennial on one such platform represent talent from the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East region, as well as Africa and South Asia. Representing the global south, it fosters south-south cooperation and enhances diversity and cohesion.”
Minister Al Qassimi also highlighted the ability of large platforms such as La Biennale di Venezia to strengthen ties and relations between countries. “Regarding the UAE National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the biennale is a significant initiative that further cements our ties with Italy. Bilateral ties between the UAE and Italy go back decades, and initiatives like this have only made them even stronger.
We cooperate with Italy on several fronts, including education, cultural exchange and artistic events. By sharing ideas and experiences, we can create synergies and train and educate young people to enable them to implement sustainable projects to protect heritage and preserve their cultural treasures,” he concluded.