Hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development (MCKD), the Arts Council and the Cultural and Creative Industries Council held a virtual meeting recently to discuss the challenges facing the creative sector as a result of COVID-19.
In an effort to compliment the UAE government’s efforts to curb the adverse economic effects spurred by COVID-19, and working in coordination with the Interim Committee set up by the Cabinet, MCKD is working to identify ways to support the creative workforce and provide additional stimuli to the creative economy.
MCKD has prompted a robust dialogue approach to understand the challenges faced by the cultural sector and spearheaded conversations with over 45 organisations across eight cultural and creative sectors, and 250 artists. Insights deriving from these conversations have been critical in shaping government discussions regarding an effective support programme.
Attendees at the meeting today put forward several potential solutions to address the current challenges they are facing, which will now help inform a coordinated response.
Speaking at the council meeting, Her Highness Sheikha Mariam bint Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “Our efforts today are paramount to unify plans and policies for an economic stimulus package which will contribute to the sustainability of the cultural and creative sector. Culture and the arts have always been a cornerstone of our nation and a strategic sector that our leadership attaches the highest importance.”
Her Highness added: “The cultural and creative sector in the country has shown great flexibility at this time. National institutions have quickly adapted to the current reality and we have seen the launch of virtual art galleries, digital libraries and webinars; a testament to the universal value of the arts as these cultural assets and sentiments have reached large audiences. Creators and artists are the pulse of our society; our aim is to work together to put in place the right economic measures and incentives that ensure the continuation of their work, which in turn enriches our cultural scene.”
HE Noura Al-Kaabi said: “Given the prominence of the cultural and creative sector – both economically and culturally – it is vital for us to join hands and come together as one, to resolve any issues, as well as provide a constructive approach during this unprecedented period”
“At the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, we are as committed as ever to bring support and clarity, especially in a time of uncertainty. In line with our vision of ‘A Culture that Inspires the World’, we must work together to create positive solutions and outcomes. We are extremely thankful for our partners’ ongoing support and the creative responses from the community so far and we’re looking forward to receiving further direct feedback from anyone in the sector with an idea or a need.”
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Founder and Patron of UAE Unlimited, said: “The UAE’s esteemed leadership has dealt with the crisis of COVID-19 with responsibility and conscientiousness at all levels, gaining the world’s trust with its quick response systems, and generosity in providing humanitarian aid. Here, the UAE has launched incentives and measures to ease economic pressures on businesses, especially in the creative and cultural sector, with a goal to overcome these difficult times.
“UAE Unlimited will continue to support emerging artists with any assistance required to develop and produce artworks. We will continue to collaborate with arts organisations and cultural practitioners across the country as we endeavour to provide opportunities for young talent to advance our national cultural industry.”
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of Ajman Tourism Development Department, said: “Ajman Tourism ensures full support to cultural and creative industries, to overcome the current situation. We continue to assess the situation and decisions are being made based on the daily changes. we also continue to encourage continuous collaboration between the public and private sectors as we believe that instilling a creative culture is a shared responsibility of every organization and members of the society as well.”
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Humaid Al Nuaimi also referred to the various initiatives and incentives launched by the Emirate of Ajman to support the creative and business sectors to overcome the current economic situation due to coronavirus (COVID- 19) crisis such as the second incentive package currently being prepared by Ajman Media City Free Zone to support the various creative and economic sectors in the emirate during the current situation. The first incentive package which was recently launched included the abolition of fines incurred by investors as a result of not renewing the rental contracts until the end of next April, refunding the guarantees for the rented units and issuing no-objection letters for the employees working at the licensed establishments at Ajman Media City who want to move from one establishment to another within Ajman Media City based on permanent or fixed-term contracts, and without fines until the end of the current year.
Sheikha Hoor Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, said: “I would like to thank Her Excellency Noura Al-Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development for leading this initiative. It is important to come together as a community to find innovative solutions that support creative industries and artists during this critical time,’ said Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. ‘While supporting local and international artists, through commissions, exhibitions, grants and residencies, has always been at the heart of our work, we look forward to partnering with various stakeholders in the UAE arts community to build a stronger foundation for our future.”
Hala Badri, director general of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, stressed the importance of the meeting of cultural councils in promoting cultural and creative work at the level of the UAE and supporting creators and intellectuals to progress and proceed under the current circumstances. She said: “It is our responsibility to provide everything that would ensure the continuity of cultural and creative efforts in the UAE. Today, it is imperative for us to unite forces and create joint plans with all federal and local cultural institutions to uplift the creative and cultural sector in the UAE.
“Through this meeting, we highlight the impact of a unified spirit and emphasise the importance of harnessing all capabilities to launch a set of economic facilities that would enhance the capabilities of workers in the national creative and cultural sector, be it at the level of individuals or institutions, in light of these current conditions facing the world. The councils will have an active role in tackling the challenges affecting this sector as well as defining the future steps that will be taken within the framework of stimulating the cultural and creative environment in the United Arab Emirates.”
Malek Sultan Al Malek, Director General of the Dubai Development Authority (DDA) and Group CEO of TECOM Group, said: “The UAE’s high level of readiness and preparedness to mitigate the current global challenge is a direct outcome of our wise leadership’s vision. The impact of the current global situation extends across all economic sectors, including the creative industries, that are a vital part of the nation’s social and economic development.
“In line with the leadership directions, we have launched several initiatives to help SMEs in the creative sector tackle the current challenges and reduce the economic impact. Those initiatives include flexible payment terms and simplified procedures, among others, and aim at solidifying Dubai’s creative ecosystem and the Emirate’s attractiveness to creative talent and businesses. We are confident of overcoming this moment by working together to achieve our strategic objectives and to reinforce the UAE’s position as a nation that nurtures creativity and preserves culture.”
HE Saood Al Hosani, Acting Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said: “This sudden global crisis has proved the United Arab Emirates’ readiness in the face of unprecedented challenges, and our country stands today as a leading example globally in the measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. Each and every one of us is proud of how the authorities and the community came together in unity to fight this pandemic with swift action and incredible professionalism. Although many cultural institutions have closed their doors during this period, our creative sector has demonstrated great flexibility in adapting to these sudden changes, chief of which is the smooth transition to digital platforms to continue providing rich cultural and educational content to our community. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi continues with its commitment to supporting artists residing in the country, deepening understanding of the role of culture in sustaining creativity and developing innovative thought, and crucially, bringing people and individuals together in solidarity, especially important at a time that the world has entered a time of great social isolation.”
Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal Founder, Alserkal, said: “Community is the bedrock of society—this has always been the defining principle of Alserkal Avenue, but also the core philosophy underpinning the vision for Dubai and the UAE. Now, more than ever, confronted with these unique challenges, we must stand together and lift each other up. I am touched by the strength and resilience of our creative community, and the formidable force, individually and collectively, that they have demonstrated in the face of this unprecedented challenge. I hope that the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme, in keeping with other public initiatives, will enable us all to rise together, to thrive, and most importantly, to be stronger together through this time.”
The meeting was attended by several prominent leaders including: Sheikha Mariam bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Abu Dhabi-based Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation (SHF), HE Noura Al Kaabi, UAE’s Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, and HE Hussain Bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, UAE’s Minister of Education, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of UAE Unlimited, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Ajman Tourism Development Department.