Abu Dhabi: As the UAE approaches its 40th anniversary, it is wonderful to see more platforms allowing Emiratis to highlight their cultural similarities, a senior representative from the National Centre for Documentation and Research (NCDR) said in the capital recently.
"It is fascinating to see just how many parallels these values have in cultures around the world. Because of their importance for our national identity and as a result of the efforts we have undertaken to maintain them with each generation, we have created opportunities for the continuous exchange of knowledge, sustained values and principles. And, many [people] have assimilated into our society with no desire to return to their home countries," Dr Aisha Bel Khair, the director of research and knowledge at the National Centre for Documentation and Research (NCDR), said.
These observations were made on the sidelines of the Talking Art Louvre Abu Dhabi discussion ‘Buddhist Art in India', at the Manarat Al Saadiyat and was organised by the Tourism Development and Investment Company.
"The turning point in the lives of all the members of the community occurred in 1971 when we all became unified and assimilated into an official entity through the issuance of UAE passports. The most dynamic aspect of this newly-emerged identity was transmitted by our late President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He focused on three major principles: ensuring justice, sharing of resources and providing work opportunities… these principles left an impact on a local, regional and global level," Dr Bel Khair said.
"Shaikh Zayed's belief in equality, global philanthropic work and advocacy of hard work and perseverance… forged an identity that imposed a high standard of ethics and responsibility on all UAE nationals," she said.
As part of the programme, the audience was given a glimpse of what to expect from the museum's Asian art collection while also learning about Buddhism and its artistic depictions.
She was joined by fellow speakers Ameena Taha Hussain-Okada, chief curator at the Guimet where she is in charge of the Arts of India and the Textiles Collections, and Vincent Lefèvre, curator in charge of Asian Arts, Agence France-Muséums and lecturer at the Ecole du Louvre, the Université de Marne-la-Vallee and at the Institut National du Patrimoine.museum of Asiatic Art.
"I was very excited to be a part of this event, as this is not only a subject I had always found interesting but also by combining our parts within the overall discussion, I believe we managed to successfully show just how different Buddhist artists contributed something new with each generation to something old. The UAE is creating a similar pattern, by always creating something new, through various projects and initiatives, out of something old, which is our culture and heritage," Dr Bel Khair said.
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is a religion of about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from ‘budhi', which means ‘to awaken'. It had its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.
To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy ‘means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as: to lead a moral life, to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding.