Manal Ataya, Director General of the Sharjah Museums Department
Manal Ataya, Director General of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD) was invited to give a talk under the heading ‘Sacred creations’ as part of a series of talks being run in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority’s three month long exhibition ‘Treasures of the World’s Cultures’ at Manarat Al Saadiyat in the Saadiyat Cultural District, Abu Dhabi.
The 1 hour and a half session began with a lecture given by Mr. Jonathan Williams of the British Museum who presented a paper on "Faith and religion in human history". Dr Jonathan Williams explored some of the diverse traditions of sacred art from around the world. He has focused on a selection of the many magnificent artefacts included in the Treasures of the World’s Cultures exhibition, the talk illustrated some of the varied ways in which religious practice and thought have been commemorated and communicated through specially crafted objects across the ages.
Ms Ataya followed the talk with her presentation titled "The Role of Museums in Preserving and Fostering Knowledge of Faith and Identity in the UAE".
Ms Ataya made use of examples from SMD’s comprehensive collections in Islamic art, calligraphy, and archaeology to underline the irreplaceable role that the Department’s portfolio of museums play in preserving and fostering the knowledge of Arab and Islamic culture, as well as of the history and heritage of the United Arab Emirates, within the context of the wider region
Ms Ataya commented, “As Muslims, when we look at the world in its present, past and future manifestations, we look at it, contemplate it and interact with it through the spectrum of Islam, our faith, our guidance and reference in everything we do. Within it, both knowledge and education are key principles.”
She went on to say that within the Gulf region as elsewhere, these traditions have continued unabated into the modern period, and museums, matahif – i.e. places of tuhaf, with formal and informal displays and exhibitions, have existed here for nearly 60 years now.
She emphasised that the focus of all of Sharjah’s museum projects firmly rests on preserving and presenting the embodiments of Sharjah’s and the UAE’s rich and kaleidoscopic religious, historical and cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations.
“Through the provision of the museums we have, we are not only given the opportunity to learn more about our unique faith, history, heritage and creativity, but also how those are interconnected with world civilization across time and space. Under the enlightened guidance of its esteemed leadership, Sharjah has long been recognised for spearheading the development of museums in the region, and given its forthcoming designation as 2014 Capital of Islamic Culture, we are looking forward consolidate and expand on what has already been achieved for the benefit of ourselves and our visitors,” Ms Ataya concluded.
Organised in collaboration with the British museum, the exhibition is the second in a series being held in preparation for the launch of the Zayed National Museum at the Saadiyat Cultural District. ‘Treasures of the World’s Cultures’ selected two of the UAE's most prestigious museums to display relevant pieces, Al Ain museum and Sharjah Archaeology museum. The museum objects on display from the Sharjah collection highlight a highly significant side of the history of the Arabian Gulf Region, and the history of Sharjah and the UAE in particular.