The Korea Herald

ssg
소아쌤

'Supporting young artists enriches our life'

Abu Dhabi Festival artistic director Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo talks about enduring power of cultural bonds

By Kim Hoo-ran

Published : June 7, 2023 - 17:01

    • Link copied

Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and founder and artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Festival (ADMAF) Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and founder and artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Festival (ADMAF)

Economic ties may have their ups and downs, but not so with cultural bonds, said Abu Dhabi's leading patron of the arts recently in Seoul, when discussing cultural exchanges between the two sides, whose strategic partnership covering business, energy and defense got a boost in January with a state visit to the United Arab Emirates by President Yoon Suk Yeol.

“Once you connect in culture, this is solid because when your culture means something to me, I will protect it no matter what,” said Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and founder and artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul on May 26.

“Once my culture means something to you, it’s vice versa. We have a stronger conversation, deeper connection and then partnership,” said Alkhamis-Kanoo, who was in Seoul to discuss cultural exchanges with various arts groups in Korea.

The weeklong visit yielded many results, including the Universal Ballet Company’s plan to perform one of its original productions based on a classical Korean novel in Abu Dhabi, as well as working on a co-production. At the Korea National University of Arts, she discussed with university President Kim Dae-jin the creation of a festival youth orchestra that would see young musicians of the two countries performing together. Master classes in Seoul for emeriti musicians were discussed as well. With the Korea National Opera, Alkhamis-Kanoo explored co-productions that could premiere in Seoul or Abu Dhabi and tour internationally.

In the field of contemporary art, panel discussions by curators from the two sides in Abu Dhabi will be followed by an exhibition of Korean art there. “A contemporary art exhibition from Korea -- this has never happened in the Arab world -- will come to us,” Alkhamis-Kanoo said.

Noting that many of these projects will take a minimum of two to three years to be realized, Alkhamis-Kanoo said, “The span of two years, three years in the world of culture is like three days. It’s nothing.”

Likely to take place soon is an exhibition of works by UAE women artists at the Art Sonje Center curated by curators of the Seoul-based private art museum, according to Alkhamis-Kanoo.

Also, pianist Lim Yun-chan, the youngest winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will perform in Abu Dhabi in 2025.

Alkhamis-Kanoo, whose father was a prominent merchant, studied art history and French literature at the American College of Paris. Upon returning to the UAE three decades ago, she realized that more could be done to promote the arts.

“I felt we can do more and it was my obligation. Sometimes I feel it was my destiny,” she said. “This is how I started the foundation and the Abu Dhabi Festival, which is the flagship of our foundation, driven by passion.”

The Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation was founded in 1996, and the annual festival was established in 2004.

Supporting young artists and connecting the younger generation to culture and the arts are Alkhamis-Kanoo’s priorities. “Every time the young artists (or) the musicians travel abroad and have masterclasses, they have grants to pursue education, they have grants to be able to produce his book or his music composition or his artwork, his life changes and he enriches our life,” she said.

Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo (left) poses with Korea National University of Arts President Kim Dae-jin in Seoul. (ADMAF) Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo (left) poses with Korea National University of Arts President Kim Dae-jin in Seoul. (ADMAF)