Dubai has always been a visionary city, historically, thanks to its visionary leadership and people and its open, tolerant culture. Today, following the same principles, Dubai ranks at the forefront of development, smart governance, financial services, business and tourism in the region.
Following its global success within these areas, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has set a new challenge for the city. On September 5, 2019, we were tasked to maximise the potential of our human capital and infrastructure by becoming a global creative and cultural centre.
Out of this vision sprung a new strategy that will see Dubai taking a significant leap forward towards growing into an international cultural metropolis — a destination where creativity, the arts, and celebrating everything “culture” are just as important as commerce and business.
To meet the ambitious vision set out by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, we have a lot more to do; we must continually evolve to meet the growing needs of industry professionals as well as cultural audiences
At Dubai Culture, we are dedicating all our efforts towards implementing this vision, with the happiness and well-being of the people of Dubai being at the heart of our objectives. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s announcement delineates the end goal and outlines the ambition that we are set to work towards.
Now, our role is to set achievable goals, develop a strategic direction with measurable outcomes, and lead the collaboration of all of Dubai’s governmental entities, as well as those operating privately within the cultural sector, as we work together towards this shared future.
As soon as the new direction was announced, we launched an industrywide survey to tap into the perceptions of industry experts on its current state. The outcome was a beaming perspective on how far the emirate has already progressed in developing a vibrant and distinctive cultural economy.
In our survey, 95 per cent of Dubai’s residents believe our creative sector is the most vibrant in the GCC. And the words they most frequently used to define Dubai? Innovation, culture, arts and creativity.
This comes as no surprise when we look at Dubai’s year-round calendar of world-class cultural activities and initiatives, such as Art Dubai, Dubai Design Week, SIKKA Art Fair, and the ongoing grass roots activities that sustain our creative economy.
However, to meet the ambitious vision set out by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, we have a lot more to do; we must continually evolve to meet the growing needs of industry professionals as well as cultural audiences. Seventy-six per cent of professionals surveyed said that Dubai’s ecosystem is sufficiently developed for the creative sector to flourish.
Although this is a strong number, our aim is to see it reach 100 per cent. To achieve real, self-sustaining growth, we must continue to ask urgent questions of stakeholders across all sectors within the cultural industry, providing a continuous platform to identify their needs and welcome their ideas.
Culture, by its own nature, is a collective effort. Collaboration must be at the heart of all our plans and initiatives; we can only achieve our ambitious vision when we work together. When every one of us is motivated to think creatively and work innovatively, creativity becomes embedded in our culture; an engine of individual and social advancement.
This means that dialogue and partnerships are vital — between the public and private sectors, patrons and entrepreneurs, large organisations and local communities. We must work in harmony to ensure that resources, ideas, and efforts are deployed most effectively within a strategic context for collective success. And we must be creative in our thinking to develop solutions that will drive our industry forward.
A couple of examples, of which I am personally very excited about, include the new creative free zone in Al Quoz and the impact of long-term visas for cultural professionals.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are at the heart of Dubai’s ethos, and our development has been defined by bringing brilliant minds together in an inspiring, nurturing and accepting environment. These are the forward-thinking leaders of the future, people whose knowledge and ideas contribute to the success of our economic ecosystem.
We listened and acknowledged their need for more support in navigating bureaucracy, starting businesses, and living and working freely in Dubai. The new free zone and visa are our flagship solutions to attract and retain this vital talent pool.
Dubai Culture’s most critical role in implementing the new cultural vision is to re-ask the most pressing questions of the cultural field, identifying challenges and opportunities on the path to our shared ambition. We are here to be a partner and enabler to the entire sector and to be a builder of our collective cultural architecture, prioritising projects according to needs and objective outputs.
Dubai is now less than a year away from Expo 2020 Dubai, a monumental event that will define the city for years to come. It will demonstrate the world’s humanitarian, creative, and technical prowess on an incredible scale within the natural context of the UAE’s cultural heritage and tradition. It is a true celebration of our people’s intrinsic values of optimism and ambition.
Our new cultural vision is equally an organic result of an enduring vision. It is a central part of the legacy that Dubai and the UAE has built for itself as a tolerant, global cosmopolis that is and will always remain open to collaboration and celebrating human potential.
— Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority