Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates

Zeinab Al Hashemi | Pearl Tale, 2010 | Scanograph | Courtesy of the artist
Zeinab Al Hashemi | Pearl Tale, 2010 | Scanograph | Courtesy of the artist

Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates was the first major touring exhibition of Emirati artwork and featured over 50 paintings, photographs, sculptures, video installations, and other media by 25 Emirati artists. Launched in May 2014, out of a partnership between Meridian International Center and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Past Forward's two-year tour showcased the creativity radiating throughout the Emirati art scene audiences in Washington,  DC, Texas, California, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, and Kentucky.

The overarching theme of the exhibition highlighted the balance between the UAE’s rapid development while maintaining its ties to its heritage and past and honoring traditional values. The exhibition featured core elements of Emirati life and represented all seven emirates while emphasizing the importance of kinship and home, nature and landscape, as well as technology and innovation to Emirati culture.

Meridian International Center partnered with the UAE Embassy to share the UAE’s compelling narrative and rich cultural heritage through this groundbreaking cultural diplomacy art initiative, which became a powerful tool for finding common ground, building lasting relationships, and fostering respect. Through these works of art, Past Forward provided a platform for Americans and Emiratis to better understand one another through first-hand insight into life and culture in the UAE.

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Project Timeline

Project summary

Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: United Arab Emirates
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy
Program Areas: Culture
Partners: Diplomatic Corps, NGOs