01 June, 2006

Culture & Heritage for AED 50 Billion

The word culture, from the Latin colo, -ere, with its root meaning "to cultivate", generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance. Different definitions of "culture" reflect different theoretical bases for understanding, or criteria for evaluating, human activity.

Egyptian Culture has 5000 years history of flourishing art, architecture, religion, literature and language. Indian culture is one of the oldest and has retained much of its illustrious art, architectural and musical heritage till date. Almost 1200 years of Roman culture and heritage is considered instrumental in shaping the social structure and civilization we see today.

So when a UAE government-funded property developer gives another-drop-your-jaws- here-is-another-press-release which says that“Culture City will offer the cultural soul that Dubai deserves”, I begin to wonder if you can really buy culture and heritage for 50 billion Dirhams. The not-so-distinguishable clichéd wind-tower(which itself has its origins in Iran and Bahrain) logo makes me all the more skeptical.

So what do you think? Is this the real culture and heritage of Dubai?


albob said...

If they want to develop the arts in Dubai then they have first of all, set up schools of music, etc, and find some good teachers aswell. Then you'd have to make the public aware of these things and try and get people interested. I'll take the example of a music school. Taking lessons in such a school always costs much less than private lessons, also it provides a better environment and gives the chance for students to play in orchestras, etc. If the education turns out to be good then it gets a reputation and more people come, which then means the school can buy better equipment and stuff, so this is when the school sort of feeds off itself.

Out of a huge number of people who start, only a very small few make it to the advanced levels and might go on to be professionals. I've heard Dubai's also building an opera house but you need to set up an orchestra for this. Singers are always imported anyway but you can't import a whole orchestra. When this new opera house opens I'd say it definitely won't survive just through opera, most of the time there'll be other types of shows and stuff.

If they're planning to build some good schools and colleges with this project then I say go for it, the arts are almost always underfunded which slows growth. If however it's just some villas and a shopping mall then screw it.

Woke said...

I think it is important to find ways promote artists and musicians and to encourage them more than anything. They are not very many in Dubai and I do not think it is easy to import artists/craftmen/musiciants like attracting tourists and home buyers showing renderings of extravagant properties. No cultural city can suvive without home-grown talent and it taken years to establish an infrastructure that encourages more artists.
Culture City is I think on a commercial angle and profit-based; marketed as a resort with residential facilities. They wouldn't care a damn about culture and heirtage once all the residential developments around it are sold out and they make a handsome profit.

BD said...

^^^ Woke, I think you're absolutely right.

But in reference to the original post, how old something has to be to be referred to as culture is debatable. I don't think anyone would have any problem with the expression American culture to describe this 300 year old phenomenon or even say gay culture perhaps only 30 or 40 years old. Of course, this project in Dubai is not even remotely like these. It's more like Disneyland--which itself has spawned a culture of theme parks, fantasy-stories and animation. In this sense 50 billion dirham may be enough to spawn a new type of culture.

Woke said...

I agree its not how old the culture is that matters. But I think for a culture to be rich and get an identity it takes efforts and time and is not something that can be developed in an year or two.
Agree with your point on this project being more like a themepark thing, but the developers have tried to position it as a project o 'preserve' the creek and the dubai culture and heritage - when there is nothing like that in the first place.

albob said...

Whether something is 5000 years old or 5 seconds old doesn't matter. Culture can mean anything and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the arts, in Dubai's case it's malls and traffic.

If they want to develop the arts in Dubai then they have to start with the foundations, ie the schools and colleges and also to show people these facilities are there. Then you need to provide oppertunities for these people so they don't bugger off elsewhere. I heard there will be design competitions for sculptures in public places for new parks being built all over dubai. This I think is an example of a good idea for providing oppertunities.

I wouldn't dismiss this project as being crap just because previous ones were. In general the new projects along the creek such as business bay and lagoons are much better planned than stuff like the palms and all the jumeirah islands / arabian ranches type sprawl.

By the way, why does this cost 50 billion because it's only a fraction the size of other projects costing the same amount?

Anonymous said...

correct me if i'm wrong but wasn't there some sort of 'art colony' forming in the warehouses on the 'off' side of shk zayed road????

MamaDuck said...

Nah, but it will be. Don't forget, the theme park was one of the major 'cultural' innovations of the late 20th Century. Dubai, the Theme Park. Pay the entry and enjoy the ride.

MamaDuck said...

Hi again. Ignoring my previous smart-ass response to your post, here's the end of my comment on John Chilton's Booming Dubai post, replying to Mohammed UK:

The Arts are undervalued in the modern world: if it don't make a profit,it don't get the exposure!

So the UAE Arts scene, having started almost from scratch, is actually developing strongly. Conservatism and increasing overheads threaten creative endeavour and encourage sure-fire commercial work, but it still contributes to a groundswell of grassroots art activity and appreciation.

If anywhere can do instant culture, Dubai is the place.

bandicoot said...

There is a bit of, well, not exactly preserving, but rather reproducing elements of local and Islamic culture within this mainly commercial project, particularly in the architecture (barajeel, covered souk) and some displays (for example showcasing dhow building at water front). In some ways this is like Medinat Jemeira many times over and with more deliberate emphasis on culture as a selling point and to some extent as a more pronounced part of the commercial and entertainment sectors. It seems the project is to some extent interested in building cultural institutions (museums, arts academies, etc.). Whether it can actually create culture (in the sense of a unique Dubai cultural identity) remains to be seen. Let’s not dismiss the vision behind it and the possibilities that it opens up before we give this project a chance to prove (or disprove) its name and claim!

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