Insights: How the creative sector is amplifying the UAE’s national identity  
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Insights: How the creative sector is amplifying the UAE’s national identity  

Insights: How the creative sector is amplifying the UAE’s national identity  

Dubai is the birthplace of up-and-coming local designers and creatives, all working together to contribute and elevate the UAE’s identity

Khadija-Al-Bastaki insights national Day

One cannot deny the role creative industries have in developing a nation’s identity. Emirati heritage is rich and expressive, and the way it has evolved with the influence of globalised Emirati youth, expats, and foreign trends can resonate beyond the Arab world. By supporting creative companies and talent locally, we can inject our heritage and perspective into a global dialogue across craft, fashion, architecture, and design.

To promote and nurture identity, it’s vital to provide artists, designers, and entrepreneurs the space and environment to grow and thrive. As such, the creative industry is becoming increasingly recognised as a tool for sustainable development. The Dubai Creative Economy Strategy is a blueprint to turn our creativity into a global export. It’s driving opportunities for creatives by increasing the sector’s contribution to the emirate’s GDP and encouraging more businesses and talent to choose Dubai as the place to live, work, create and rethink the regular.

Building blocks of culture
Artists and designers create artifacts that express their identity, experiences, ancestral stories and age-old customs. Whether in the materials and methods used, visuals it takes its cues from, or the tradition it builds on, creatives are the key to building and preserving the culture and stories of a people.

With Dubai being as much a place where premium brands exist, it is also the birthplace of up-and-coming local designers and creatives, all working together to contribute and elevate the UAE’s identity. With artists from all corners of the world choosing Dubai as home, their art and designs begin to blend Emirati heritage and national identity with a Dubai-only cosmopolitanism. Even international labels who now have boots on the ground are launching curated collections, be it furniture or clothes, catering to local and regional tastes. This helps our culture evolve with changing times and create its own niche in the global creative dialogue.

Global amplification
Dubai’s business proposition, strategies like the Creative Economy and our central location are ingredients that make our emirate a global cultural hub. Ecosystems like Dubai Design District provide a platform where the complete creative community can meet, exchange ideas and insights, showcase their work and outline the pending chapters of the industry. Our connectivity and strategic location are adding to a calendar of high-profile events that elevate artists and contribute to a more resilient creative economy.

Events organised in strategic partnership with d3, like Dubai Design Week, Arab Fashion Week, and Sole DXB, have grown from being small-scale, industry-only events to starred dates in the regional and global culture calendars. We see creative brands from around the world participate because it allows them to reach new, eager audiences across the MENA region. We complement these efforts by ensuring that Emirati and local creatives are well-represented and have strong windows of exposure to potential investors, collaborations and distributors.

The latest edition of Dubai Design Week was a very special one for me. It represented some 30 Emirati designers, which is the most significant group to date. Seeing my fellow Emiratis breaking new ground in the region’s design and creative sector was remarkable. Many used their identity as a foundation for modern design and sustainable solutions. From locally sourced materials to traditional architectural patterns, these artists introduced a global audience to creative solutions that are deeply rooted in Arab heritage.

A treasure trove of talent
When we create such inspiring environments and allow more people to tell local and original stories through design, we strengthen pride in the nation. Emirati youths and young expats alike can see themselves reflected in these emerging design trends and applications. We strengthen entrepreneurship by supporting local and regional brands, and – one of my goals – inspire others to be a part of Dubai’s creative industries.

But it’s not enough to show them examples of such creativity and talent. We must provide platforms that attract and enable youth. We must give them the resources, tools and guidance to get started and help facilitate their growth through events and strategic partnerships so they can inject their touch into our cultural and creative story.

d3’s parent company, TECOM Group, does this through in5. The business incubator, which has a design-focused innovation centre based in our district, nurtures ideas and businesses to their next phase of growth. Freelancers and hobbyists can even buy a membership package to use its creative facilities, such as the Fashion Lab and Prototyping Lab, and begin creating in their own time. Such platforms make it easier to foster innovation and push new ideas in the marketplace.

Our sector’s longevity depends on a natural resource that is infinite and profound: creativity and talent.  Our impact in the global design industry is growing. Our creatives are rubbing shoulders with global counterparts. On UAE National Day, we celebrate not only how far we have come in the past 51 years but also all the places we have left to go.

We have innovative talent and a great vision, and our country provides a stage where the world can finally see.

Khadija Al Bastaki is the vice president of Dubai Design District (d3)

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