Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

Sheikh Khalifa believes the United Arab Emirates would benefit in multiple ways if people there had more time to read. So he saw to it that a law got passed requiring employers to do their bit.

The National reports, “Employees will be given time off work to read under a law that was passed [in October], which also exempts reading material from taxes and fees.

“The President, Sheikh Khalifa, announced the law, which is aimed at achieving the country’s vision of a knowledge-based economy. …

“As part of the law, the Government will give a ‘knowledge briefcase’ to the families of newborns.

“Schools will be obliged to encourage reading among pupils, as well as a respect for books. Books that are no longer wanted must not be destroyed, but preserved, reused or donated, Sheikh Mohammed said.

“Fees and taxes for distributing, publishing and printing reading material will be scrapped, and facilities for authors, editors and publishing houses will be provided. Sheikh Mohammed said the law would consolidate ‘the cultural image of books in our society, and oblige coffee shops in shopping malls to offer reading material for customers.’ …

“A national fund will be set up to support reading initiatives and assist media organisations to advertise the importance of books. The fund will also be used organise a month dedicated each year to promoting literature.”

More here.

It’s an unusual approach, but it seems OK as long as there is freedom to choose what gets read. Lately, I’ve been immersed in the beautiful, wrenching autobiography of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca and learning all over again how literacy gives people wings. Baca learned to read in prison at around age 20 and it transformed his life.

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In a recent NY Times article, art critic Holland Cotter expressed skepticism that a show of new artists lumped together as “Arab” could work. (Some artists declined to participate for the same  reason.)  The artists in the New Museum exhibit are from “Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, not to mention Europe and the United States.”

But in the end, he was thrilled with the opportunity to see the new works.

“It’s a big show, intricately pieced together on all five floors of the museum, and starts on the street-level facade with a large-scale photograph of an ultra-plush Abu Dhabi hotel. The image was installed by the cosmopolitan collective called GCC, made up of eight artists scattered from Dubai to London and New York who make it their business to focus on the preposterous wealth concentrated in a few hands in a few oil-rich countries on the Persian Gulf.”

Cotter goes on to describe many of the pieces in detail, here, and concludes with some advice for visitors.

“To appreciate this show fully, a little homework can’t hurt. But really all you need to do is be willing to linger, read labels and let not-knowing be a form of bliss. In return, you’ll get wonderful artists, deep ideas, fabulous stories and the chance, still too seldom offered by our museums, to be a global citizen. Don’t pass it up.”

The show will be up until September 28.

Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“Here and Elsewhere” show at the New Museum

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