In a world ruled by media, it’s easy to accept stereotypes. But what if Art was used as a modern communication tool to break them down?
As social beings, it’s in our nature to frame and share ideas. This notion has grown even more powerful with the dominance of technology and communication in our daily lives. The media industry has been successful in reaching the masses globally and in shaping the way we think about aspects of the world, about others, and about ourselves.
This practice over a long period of time has resulted in many misconceptions about foreign cultures, societies, and countries. The stereotypes that have formed over time are mainly due to blatant acceptance of what we see in mainstream media like movies, advertisements, and the news. You would find that this breeds a culture of ignorance among people who do not criticize what the media produces.
But this depiction of the world is not entirely gloomy. On the contrary, it highlights the role of the arts and the developmental growth of culture in nurturing critical thinking and instilling it within societies. More specifically, in breaking down inaccurate stereotypes.
So, is it possible to use the tools of modern art to change how people think about you? An Emirati student, Sarah Al Ahbabi, at NYUAD believes so. She created an art project that portrayed the several misconceptions she has been faced with as an Emirati citizen, being her motivation, she used creative photography to spark dialogues about breaking down stereotypes.
Topics such as these are often sensitive within the Emirati community and in the minds of the expatriate residents who live and work in the UAE. However, through art, people feel more comfortable to discuss such issues.
Through her pictures, she addresses different stereotypes of Emiratis such as the misconception that Emiratis are not hardworking and that all Emiratis are rich and live a very easy life. In addition, these misconceptions are born from their portrayal in the media. As people limit their access to reliable information, they would resort to the media in order to understand cultures unfamiliar to them, giving the media major leverage in forming and framing false ideas of cultures, religions, and countries.
This is precisely why sparking a dialogue through bold and controversial art forms is incredibly significant to provoke thought and produce change within societies. It acts as a form of communication that is understood and interpreted by each individual to realize that there is a problem, and this is not the norm, so they must change these preconceived ideas by changing their own thinking to begin with.
Suffice to say, the use of art, as a communication platform must be encouraged as it has positive effects in addressing sensitive issues. Just as advertising on the media, or on news reports, make us aware of trends and products, art can spread awareness in a very powerful way. Art can be utilized not just as a form of expression and creativity, but in solving political and social issues that spark dialogue and change.
None of us appreciate being generalized by others, and accurate representations of societies, whether it is just Emiratis or the fellow nations in the Arab world, are a way to build unity and strength through culture and peaceful understanding. All members of a society should be recognized for their credentials, not for the preconceived ideas that have been labeled on them.