People around the world have turned to art, music, dance, poetry and other creative pursuits to cheer themselves and connect with others during the COVID-19 pandemic, but social distancing and lockdowns have made it difficult for art and cultural institutions to reach their audiences and sustain themselves.
Institutions in the UAE and this region have found innovative ways to overcome the challenges and ensure that the show goes on.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is offering digital tours of its collections and exhibitions, learning activities, talks by artists and curators. It has recently added a 20-minute cinematic podcast, ‘We Are Not Alone’ that invites people to discover the museum’s unique architecture through a sci-fi narrative.
Composed and produced by Soundwalk Collective, an experimental group of artists and musicians, the futuristic story is narrated in six languages by international celebrities. The podcast is accompanied by a short film that reimagines the museum as the backdrop to this poetic tale taking place in a future post-human galaxy.
The story creates a dialogue between past and present civilisations as represented by the museum’s collection, and contemplates questions about free will, human nature and destiny, and the human condition in a dystopian future ruled by Artificial Intelligence.
The museum has also partnered with anghami, the MENA region’s largest music streaming app, to launch a series of curated playlists inspired by the masterpieces in its collections.
ALL FOR ART
Art institutions such as Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), Jameel Arts Centre, and Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi are presenting online exhibition tours, art workshops, talks, podcasts, film screenings and cultural festivals in addition to providing funds for artists to complete their projects stalled by the pandemic.
This month SAF is collaborating with Habibi Collective, a digital film archive that celebrates the work of female filmmakers from the Middle East and North Africa to live-stream acclaimed short and feature length films and documentaries by Arab women on June 12 and 26 at 8.30pm.
The Dubai-based Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts has extended its reach to students across the world by offering online courses in classical Indian vocal and instrumental music and dance. The centre, which has introduced Indian classical performing arts as a core subject for primary school students in several Dubai schools is continuing to train over 5,000 schoolchildren via live e-lessons.
It has also revived its popular Friday evening music sessions or ‘baithaks’ via live-streaming. Similarly, The Junction is keeping local performers and audiences engaged with a variety of online performances ranging from play reading and storytelling sessions to stand-up comedy and acting workshops.
Elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia’s leading culture centre Ithra by Aramco (King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture) organised a Lockdown Parade through the streets of Khobar, Dammam, Dhahran, Qatif and Sihat in the Eastern Province to make Eid special for communities under lockdown.
The parade featured colourfully decorated floats carrying bands, musicians and other performers presenting traditional Saudi songs and dances such as Ardha, Sahrqi music, folk songs related to fishing and pearl diving, and Eid songs.
Over 100,000 people enjoyed the parade from their balconies, windows and doorsteps. Ithra has also launched the COVID-19 Journal, an online platform for the public to share their thoughts during lockdown, which has attracted over 1,000 entries; and a nationwide ‘heat map’ showing how people feel across different parts of the country. The organisation launched a digital platform with over 30 online programmes in March and has seen an increase of 800 per cent in visitors and workshop participants.