Bringing attention to cultural platforms that link and celebrate the two cultures of the UAE and Japan.
The UAE and Japan have always shared bilateral relations that stretch back even before the formation of the Emirates. Bilateralism refers to the relationship between two independent countries that is influenced by economic, political and cultural factors. However, culture is always poorly highlighted compared to the dominating economic and political fields. In this article, I will bring attention to how different cultural platforms in the UAE link and celebrate the two cultures together.
Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) is a contemporary art and cultural foundation founded in 2009 by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi. SAF organized an exhibition not to be missed by Yayoi Kusama, one of Japan’s most prominent contemporary artists. The exhibition takes place in SAF art spaces until the 9th of January 2017. If you haven’t visited it yet expect the following: Walking back in time particularly in Al Mareija, a heritage area in the heart of Sharjah. The space provides a beautiful inauguration of traditional and contemporary elements. You will get the chance to experience Kusama’s avant-garde work within a culturally vibrant environment. “Dot Obsession” by Yayoi Kusama is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys minimalistic, large-scale and interactive installations. For more information visit: http://sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/exhibitions/yayoi-kusama-dot-obsessions
Another platform that aims to build a relationship between UAE nationals, local communities and Japanese residents is the UAE-Japan Cultural Center. The center plays a significant role in removing cultural barriers and promoting mutual understanding between the two cultures. The UAE and Japan share a unique balance between tradition and modernity, regardless of their geographical and geological distinction. The center offers UAE nationals and residents the chance to become more conscious of Japanese culture and traditions. At the same time, it provides Japanese residents in the UAE a well-rounded understanding of Emirati culture. The center also offers several activities such as Japanese language classes and Arabic calligraphy courses for a hands-on experience of each culture. For more information about the center visit: http://jp.ae/
Lastly is an Emirati cultural exchange project called “Wahaj”. The project is based in Sharjah and focuses on introducing UAE traditions and culture to the rest of the world, starting with Japan. It all took place when the founders recognized similar cultural and artistic traits between Sharjah and Kyoto, which they wanted to further build on. As a result, the group made its first trip to universities in Japan, they introduced students to Emirati culture and invited them to visit Sharjah. The project received the sponsorship of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority which reassures me that cultural platforms in the UAE are aware of the fundamental role of art and culture in bridging relationships between countries. To keep up with Wahaj and everything UAE/Japanese related, have a look at their Instagram account. (@Wahaj_ae)
These are only a few examples of how cultural exchange is currently practiced between the UAE and Japan. I believe that cultural relations between countries are as significant as economic and political relations and that fostering them is an ongoing process that should be given more attention.