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Dubai: Sheikha Latifa talks about potential of unlocking culture



She highlights it is a path to sustainable livelihoods and economic growth


Culture is synonymous with “creative economy” which has the potential to generate both livelihoods and sustenance.

That was the predominant thought shared by Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority Dubai Culture and a member of the Dubai Council, who acknowledged the formidable task of promoting culture to reshape perspectives while speaking on the concluding day of the Arab Media Forum at a session titled, “Culture and Media: Crafting a Creative Vision for the Future.”

“I posted this survey in Arabic and English about the definition of culture…some said it’s arts, some said its literature, others said it’s a set of values. According to me, it’s all of the above, we express this culture through cinema, arts, and literature. Today the concept of culture is much broader and is called the ‘creative economy’. Today our leaders realise the importance of this sector.”


Perception of culture needs to change

She then stressed the perception of culture, which is often misunderstood as a mere hobby, rather than a legitimate industry capable of providing sustenance.

“We have a task of promoting culture to change perspectives. But unfortunately, culture is regarded as a hobby not seen as a serious industry that can bring food to your table. Culture was limited to a certain industry earlier but now it affects the country’s economy,” she added.


Family’s role in honing culture

Sheikha Latifa also highlighted how her father, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai has been her “role model.” She emphasized that her family played a crucial role in imparting the fundamental aspects of culture to her, as she was constantly surrounded by poets, writers, and artists who consistently emphasized and refined cultural values throughout her journey.

“When I was a child, I remember I used to wake up to go to school before sunrise. My grandfather, Dubai’s then ruler would roam around Dubai in his car. I could see his passion and determination to develop Dubai. I also saw my father’s dream to do the same. I haven’t seen anyone with the same determination as my father. He is my role model. This instilled in me the value of giving. My father gave me the opportunity to train. My mother encouraged me to read. All this deeply impacted me and I started understanding the importance of culture.”


Covid changed perceptions

Referring to the Covid phase and how industries and sectors changed thereafter with altered mindsets, she added,

“Six months after my nomination (as Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority) we headed into the lockdown. The workflow changed. Then the priorities changed. The healthcare sector took center stage. But what we also noticed was more attractiveness for the creative sector. More people gravitated towards literature, e-games, designs, books.”

“I am proud of my team. They could transform the museum visits into virtual visits for people. During Covid, people realized this is an essential segment of their lives. More virtual visits to museums started happening,” she added.


Dubai to be an economic hub for people to thrive

Referring to the Dubai creative economy strategy and Sheikh Mohammed’s vision, Sheikha Latifa said, “HH announced in a tweet that Dubai should be a creative hub for people to thrive not just an economic hub.”

She further shed light on how culture and media are intertwined, with each sector playing a crucial role in preserving the Emirate’s rich heritage.

“Culture and Media have a symbiotic relationship with both sectors having a role to convey our true heritage. We need a partnership to promote it. We should create a strong world, create Arab content and technologies should be used.”


Creating impactful Arab content for children

“We need to share impactful content for our children. In my research, this is rare content in Arabic and even rarer (content) pertaining to the Emirates. We need strong content to foster Arab and Emirati culture that will be a source of pride for them. Today western content is dubbed or localized. It’s not Arab content. Our children should identify themselves with the content. Young people should also see role models embodying the Arab culture.”

Urging people to adopt newer tools to leverage technological advancement, she says the different platforms should be used to disseminate meaningful content.

“Today’s world is an open space, even a receiver’s span of attention is very short, so using new tools people should be able to create a new culture and disseminate this culture. I don’t perceive AI (or any technology) to be a threat because it is not smarter than human beings. We’ve reached space, we held onto our identity, and we should leverage this. We must respect our roots.”


Showing optimism for the future of the Arab world, she said she sees the youth as determined, talented, and hard-working. “We must provide an adequate environment with education and opportunities. I am optimistic about them.”


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