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Iconic venues aim to revive Kuwait's past cultural glory
March 24, 2018, 3:22 pm

Preservation and promotion of art and culture have always been a way of life in Kuwait. From the time of the country's independence in 1961 to well into the 1980s, Kuwait was regarded as the cultural hub of the region, attracting artists and art-lovers from around the area.

The country was often described as an oasis in an otherwise culturally bland region; a place where art and artists flourished;  a cauldron where stage dramas, movie screens, literature,radio and other media, articulated and advanced various artistic trends, political ideologies and ideas, including that of Pan-Arabism and the Palestinian movement in its early days.

Today, the promotion of aesthetic values and perceptions among people in Kuwait remain just as strong, active and dynamic as they did in the era before oil changed the economic landscape of the region. The one notable difference is that the political activism and revolutionary leanings of the youth of yesteryears, have given way to more demure artistic expressions on stage and through art, music, literature and other media.

Culture and cultural icons have been important elements in Kuwait's development, with actors, artists,musicians and sporting stars often holding an inordinate sway over citizens and expatriates alike. Over the years, the government as well as individuals have supported the promotion of artistic ventures and venues, including museums and galleries that helped preserve the country's tradition, culture, history and heritage.

In the last couple of years, Kuwait has attempted to further burnish its cultural credentials and restore its former glory as a regional cultural hub by inaugurating several new artistic venues. As part of its broader, long-term 'New Kuwait 2035' strategic plan that aims to transform Kuwait into a regional financial and cultural hub, the government has opened up a spew of cultural centers, cinemas, theaters and museums across the country.

The latest cultural venue to open its doors to the public is the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Center in Al-Sha’ab district, which aims to celebrate the scientific, social and cultural advancements of mankind over the eons. The iconic new structure along with the equally eye-catching Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center along the sea-front in Kuwait City, forms the new Kuwait National Cultural District that affords the country a unique cultural identity.

Spread across 13-hectares and encompassing 20,000sqm of exhibit area, the Abdulla Al-Salem Cultural Center (ASCC) is the largest museum project in the world. The ASCC, which celebrates Kuwaiti, Islamic and Arab culture and history, also showcases the rich diversity of the world's finest cultural achievements through six main exhibit areas: A Natural History Museum, a Science Museum, a Museum of Arabic and Islamic History, a Space Museum, a Fine Arts Center; and a theater.

Using the latest cutting-edge technology, enveloping environments, large-scale models and compelling interactivity across all the museums, the ASCC provides visitors with an exciting range of attractions, while delivering a new and unparalleled learning approach for both young and old alike. Additionally, the Fine Arts Center features artist studios and an 'artist-in-residence' program that allows artists and other creative folks to move away from their daily routine and environment, and spend time reflecting, researching and immersing themselves in a new and innovative experience that helps embellish their original artistry.

The staggering scale and contours of buildings comprising the ASCC are designed to not only convey a sense of grandeur and inspire amazement among visitors, but also attempts to foster cultural activism and enhance patriotic values among people.

The opening of ASCC in early February by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, came barely three months after he patronized and attended the opening of Kuwait's other cultural icon, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center (JACC) in downtown Kuwait.

A multi-disciplinary cultural space, the JACC aims to entertain, educate and inspire every generation and section of society with a range of events that include music, theater, films, workshops and debates. The JACC is a space for dialogue and a platform to share and showcase skills and knowledge, while also functioning as an entertainment and cultural center.

On a similar vein, and as part of the ongoing cultural revival in the country, in April of last year, His Highness the Amir inaugurated the second phase of Al-Shaheed Park, which is located on the outskirts of the capital.

Spread across 200,000sqm of greenery, the Park recounts the story of Kuwait's land, history and culture through two museums, the Thekra and the Habitat. In addition, the Park features impressive botanical gardens, a lake, walkways, jogging tracks and a visitors center.

The Thekra Museum, which is essentially a memorial museum, provides visitors with details of Kuwait's history and heritage, its past battles highlight of which is the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait in 1991. Meanwhile, the Habitat Museum highlights the country's environment, its flora and fauna, including migratory birds.

Together, these newly launched cultural venues are expected to revive Kuwait's former status as the cultural pivot of the region. It is hoped that the return of open-mindedness and liberal attitudes will once again attract art and culture aficionados, as well as artists and other creative folks from within the country, as well as from the region and beyond to Kuwait.


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