Sharjah’s position as cultural capital highlighted during forum
April 30, 2022 / 2:46 PM
Sharjah24:A forum for cultural leaders organized by Yale University’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) and led by Charlotte Ashamu, invited Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) to share insight into the strategic vision of Sharjah that successfully developed strong cultural infrastructure and a flourishing arts scene over the past 4 decades.
During her participation in The Directors Forum, a program aimed at providing a platform for leaders and entrepreneurs from over 25 cultural institutions across Africa to connect, learn and pave the way for a more secure future for global heritage, Ataya spoke of the emirate’s strategy that ultimately led to Sharjah’s many accolades and global reputation as one of the great cultural capitals of the Arab World.
“Sharjah’s strategy which focused on education, preserving heritage, building capacity and international partnerships has resulted in rapid growth in the art sector in the emirate,” Ataya said during a session moderated by Wanjiru Koinange, Co-Founder of Kenya’s Book Bunk firm which restores public libraries as sites of heritage and public art.
She pointed out that numerous projects and initiatives spearheaded by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah have increased the number of cultural offerings and cultural production in the emirate.
“Recent cultural developments in Sharjah included the opening of the House of Wisdom and also two new museums under SMA namely Hisn Khor Fakkan and the Resistance Monument, while more universities in the emirate are now offering comprehensive heritage and arts-related programs,” she added.
Ataya noted that regular major events organized in Sharjah such as the Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah Architecture Triennial, Islamic Arts Festival, Sharjah Heritage Days, and the Sharjah International Book Fair, have solidified the emirate’s position regionally and globally.
She also discussed the similarities between the Middle East and the African Region in regards to the rapid development in museums and cultural institutions in the past decade, while also drawing attention to the impact of the Western methodology and pedagogy on museum development and the imbalance that can occur if there is too much reliance on outsourcing.
Ataya additionally emphasized the need for newly established institutions in the African continent to remain relevant to their local communities by making a commitment to accessibility, investing heavily in training local staff and for cultural leaders to determine their own content and reclaim their narratives within their museum displays.
She further explained that museum leaders should be deeply involved in the process of developing new museum content and must find partners that share similar values so that they can maximize resources available and enhance cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.