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1971. President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan with the other rulers of the emirates, government representatives and media listen to the British political agent as he reads the document proclaiming the federation and the UAE's independence. - WAM Image Credit:

Dubai: A new exhibition ‘Photographs in Dialogue UAE – 1971 – UK’ will trace the diplomatic relationship between the United Kingdom and the UAE in the 1960s and 70s, in the lead up to the foundation of the UAE in 1971, it was announced on Sunday.

The exhibition will bring together stories of leaders and officials from both countries as they worked together on plans to end the UK’s formal presence in what was previously known as the Trucial States, which led to the birth of the UAE.

‘Photographs in Dialogue’ will include a group of photographs lent from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London and a group of photographs from collections in the UAE, supplemented by objects and archival material. These include a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II taken by Cecil Beaton in 1968, and a rare series of photographs of Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum (then Ruler of Dubai) taken by Rex Coleman for Baron Studios in 1961.

As well as illustrating many key moments in the lead up to the formation of the UAE, the exhibition will showcase the continued importance and special nature of the relationship between the UAE and the UK. ‘Photographs in Dialogue’ will also allow visitors to consider how photography was made and collected before the digital age, and to engage with the ways in which photographs have been important in preserving, archiving and understanding national stories.

‘Photographs in Dialogue’ is the Etihad Museum’s first international collaboration on an exhibition, and the first collaborative project in the Middle East for the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition will be on display at the Etihad Museum, Dubai, from March 17 to December 12, 2020.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Michele Bambling Visiting Associate Professor, NYU Abu Dhabi, Clare Freestone, Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery and Dr. Edward McDonald-Toone, International Partnerships Manager, National Portrait Gallery.

Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture, said: “The collaborative nature of the cooperation in organising this exhibition reflects the strong cultural relations that already exist between the UAE and the UK. This exhibition is a platform where civilisations, history and culture converge and its prestigious location of the Etihad Museum is also symbolic of these elements. All these factors contribute to the enhancement of the value of exploring history as well as laying foundations for a positive future.”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “Portraits offer a special insight into the link between history and the stories of individual people. ‘Photographs in Dialogue’ will offer an unmissable insight into the importance of photographs as records of the role of Emirati and British leaders at a momentous time in the UAE’s history. The National Portrait Gallery is thrilled to work in conversation with the Etihad Museum and with the support of the British Council on the exhibition, which is our first ever collaboration in the region.”

Mansour Abulhoul, the UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom, said: “I am thrilled that these two cultural heavyweights from the UAE and the UK have teamed up to create what is sure to be an enlightening exhibition. Cross-cultural initiatives such as this underline the strength and collaborative nature of the UAE-UK relationship, and we welcome the enthusiastic involvement of key UK cultural and political institutions in bringing this historic exhibition together.”

Patrick Moody, the British Ambassador to the UAE, said: “I am delighted at this new project between one of our best-loved UK museums - the National Portrait Gallery and the UAE’s Etihad Museum. It is another example of the British Council supporting new cross-cultural connections between the UK and the UAE. The two museums will bring to the UAE what I am sure will be a fascinating exhibition about Britain and the formation of the United Arab Emirates, giving us all a chance to learn about and explore our shared history.”