20 March, 2011

Saadiyat in a limbo

'More than 130 artists have said they will boycott the Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi over what they say is exploitation of foreign workers, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.'

(click on image for full article)

This pertains to Saadiyat Island and their spin-off projects of borrowed culture & art.

I wonder if this boycott threat would make any difference?

Would it prompt the concerned bigwigs to speed-up corrective measures enabling this artificial island to be up & running at the earliest?

13 comments:

A cup of Chai said...

The construction in UAE is massive and the architectural beauty is amazing.

theguff said...

Come see our magical Island and look at all of our culture and shit!...just turn a blinf eye to our blatant human exploitation.

How god darn predictable. I hope this picks up media coverage. Then they'll at least be forced to make some form of acknoldgment of their assholery.

Nature Strikes Back - Valerie Grove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nature Strikes Back said...

Unlikely to make any difference at all .. perhaps a few weasel words and assurances that they are making improvements etc etc..

It is very funny that at least 10 of the artists signed up are participating in the current Sharjah Biennial... which incidentally had its own little political 'incident' :)

http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2011/03/18/protesters-displaying-names-of-bahrain-dead-at-sharjah-biennial-opening-arrested/

Faisal Haji said...

I'm not against Labor enforcement in the UAE, but the Human Watch thing makes me sick. First of all, they are really exaggerating things. I have a close friend who works in the labor ministry and he made things clear. Private companies in the UAE, hire those workers and to save money, they stuff 20 of them in a little room. Now if the Municipality or the ministry found out first, the sponsors will have a heavy fine and will be forced to provide a better place to live. Here is when it becomes bad, when the media or the human right watch guys find out first, then the government is blamed for that.

Another thing, I find it oxymoronic to criticize the UAE while leaving the States or other western "developed" countries out of this. Just because the labors are not in the US, it doesn't mean that they are not working for them. WalMart, and other departmental stores have their prices cheap for a reason; there are tons of sweatshops in China, Philippine, Indonesia and other areas that work for them.

Sarah walton - the hedonista said...

I need to look into this more, so correct me if my thinking is wrong - I was under the impression that the "recruitment fees" paid by the workers were to people usually in their own country - middle men, who effectively get the cheap labour across....?

The UAE are guilty of allowing such practices to continue, and they should be accountable for that. But I'm not sure if this action by the artists will stop the cycle, as they are not hitting directly at the point of instigation. I wonder if they would boycott galleries in India and Bangladesh too? Or do they forgive corruption and exploitation in countries where the per capita income is lower?

Let's hope it works, but I doubt it's going to stop anything - the workers will just get sent another place and be exploited by someone else, and Abu Dhabi will support 130 other struggling artists. Maybe they should have expressed their concern using their Art as a medium, not their voice.

Faisal Haji said...

To Sarah,

I'm not saying that the system has no faults, I'm just saying that media/human right watch should give them a slight breather. The country is less than 4 decades old and if you look at history it took the States a lot more to end slavery, give women their rights, and be "civilized". The UAE and the region are trying very hard to change, but the rapid pace is overwhelming and I think that it will do more harm than good. Change should be gradual and not instant. It's very common to hear Emiratis saying "everyday there is a new law" the reason being that laws are put in effect quickly without much consideration in a way to "shut up" a certain groups. I mean the country seems in a vortex of chaos.

To make it clear, I don't agree with the recruitment fees, binding someone to his/her job, visa cancellation upon departure, etc... but some of these laws are necessary (for now) to prevent illegal residency, crime, and other mishaps. Until a new policy is to be laid out to fill the loop holes in the existing policies, harsher entry requirements are needed.

Dave said...

The thing that is not apparent until you live in the UAE is that all the legislative infrastructure is actually in place:-

The UAE has satisfactory labor laws but they are rarely enforced by the authorities and in the event of a "dispute" the worker is normally not the victor.

The same can be said for the road traffic laws and workplace health & safety laws - all the "rules" are in place but nobody gives a shit and the Govt never enforces them....

Abu Dhabi Directory said...

This is an old issue on poor workers abused in the world SPECIALLY MIDDLE EAST. Many protest about this matter but it did not work at all. This is because many of the human rights organizations are fake and senseless.

Kyle said...

Sarah:

You're missing the bigger picture here. This isn't about the workers being exploited in their backyards and whether the same tit-for-tat measure would be evident if push came to shove.

The direct repercussion of the 130 artists (current) action may -- and I say may again, prompt Guggenheim or for that matter Louvre to reconsider their position at Saadiyat.

Nature Strikes Back said...

Yesterday (Wednesday), the Guggenheim responded saying that an independent monitor will be in place on Saadiyat from May, and that contractors will be required to reimburse workers who were forced to pay recruitment fees

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/press-room/news/3971

For a review of Art Dubai / Sharjah Biennial which picks up on this see also:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/mar/23/art-dubai-sharjah-biennial

Anonymous said...

@Sarah
The recruiters in their home countries say that they are asked by the UAE companies to get the workers to pay for the visa. They are just passing on the costs to the workers.
This is verified. The same recruiters hire for senior positions without charging the candidate.
There are many duped workers too who are brought to the UAE after they've paid a fees - AED10,000 or so to someone who has arranged for visa. Once they reach the UAE they are left to rot at the airport and the contact disappears with their passport. It IS possible to track who provided the visa. Why isn't that done?

B.D. said...

I have read that some of the best conditions for laborers in the UAE or on Saadiyat Island projects, where some of the accommodations are equipped with sports facilities, libraries, internet, etc. If this is the case on the Gugennheim and other such high profile projects, then the human rights groups should instead target other projects where abuses can be verified.

It isn't right to just assume the conditions are poor when in fact there have been improvements for workers in recent years.

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