Al Burda's journey began in 2004, when the Ministry of Culture launched the Al Burda Award in honor of the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). The Award honors practitioners by receiving original submissions in the disciplines of calligraphy (classical and modern), poetry (classical and nabati) and ornamentation. The works are inspired by the life of the Prophet Mohammed, the Holy Quran and hadiths. As of 2018, over 290 winners, primarily from the MENA region, have been awarded in recognition of their distinguished work.
In 2018, Al Burda grew to welcome the 1st edition of the Al Burda Festival, comprising a fully-fledged programme of talks, performances and exhibitions, gathering creative leaders and community figures from around the globe to collaborate, exchange insights and share ideas. The Festival also saw the launch of the Al Burda Endowment, an initiative that seeks to expand the reach of Islamic culture by recognizing creative pioneers who embrace experimentation and reinterpretation in their approach to Islamic art and culture. The inaugural edition granted 50,000 AED each to 10 contemporary artists from the Arab World, Pakistan and Hong Kong, creating artworks that range from sculpture, textile-based work and photography to installation, virtual reality, experiential projects and more.
Now, Al Burda has become a multidisciplinary platform dedicated to celebrating diverse facets of Islamic arts and culture, through promoting creativity and experimentation in Islamic art practices and fostering critical discourse between experts, institutions and communities on the past, present and future of Islamic culture.
Al Burda Festival
* Al Burda Festival, through its fully-fledged program of talks, performances and exhibitions, gathered together 344 creative leaders and community figures from around the globe to collaborate, exchange insights and share ideas. The program included 6 performances and 15 sessions with 45 speakers. The sessions were divided between panel-style ideas lounges, in-depth workshops, and interactive masterclasses discussing a range of topics including the future of Islamic art, cultural organizations in the digital era, who is the audience for Islamic art, Islamic architecture to change the world, among many others.
Al Burda Award
* As of 2018, over 290 winners, primarily from the MENA region, have been awarded the Al Burda Award in recognition of their distinguished work.
Al Burda Endowment
* The inaugural edition of Al Burda Endowment debuted the work of finalists in Abu Dhabi Art Fair in November 2019 (which is a popular art space in the UAE showcasing a range of local, regional and international art). This enabled the wider community to access the world of Islamic art and pique their interest in Islamic Art. The move to showcase the exhibition in parallel to other exhibitions of a different nature highlighted the importance of integrating Islamic art into the contemporary art world and its adaptability to diverse expressions and interpretations.
* The Endowment artists' work also demonstrated the vast possibilities to reimagine the public and scholarly limitations imposed on Islamic art that is sometimes viewed in a rigid manner, one that sees Islamic art as purely decorative or functional. Their process and final artworks instead reflected fluidity, imagination and critical thought.
The inaugural edition of Al Burda Endowment granted 50,000 AED each to 10 contemporary artists from the Arab World, Parkistan and Hong Kong.
Analysis of Islamic Art
In October 2018, in parallel with its strategic direction towards expanding the scope of Al Burda into a multidisciplinary platform, the Ministry of Culture and Youth conducted a 5-year foresight analysis on Islamic arts using Swarm AI technology. The outcomes of the analysis further reinforced launching the Al Burda Endowment.
The following key findings were identified in the analysis:
* Education is a key theme when discussing the future of Islamic Art and Culture.
* Funding will prove most impactful if directed to the education and skills of new artists, with a priority on those in the UAE.
* Funding of both formal arts programming and practical mentorships is expected to have the greatest impact on artistic skill development, especially if the educational objective is to build creativity and technological skills.
* In the next five years, the performing and visual arts are projected to see the greatest growth in Islamic Art. In turn, that discipline is expected to benefit most from direct funding.
* Future leaders of Islamic Art are expected to be more culturally-aware and rise from the ranks of younger UAE and global citizens.
* The Ministry can best help Islamic Art via policies that subsidize artistic work spaces and support artist training, as well as creation and dissemination of artistic works. A broad range of funding sources are seen as important.
* The benefit of governmental partnerships with artists and academics is multi-pronged. First, diversifying the sources of funding will increase initiatives by artists and academics; second, the Ministry can help build a broader audience and more awareness for the Islamic Arts through the use of its platforms and network of partners.
Review of Al Burda Award
Further, in March 2020, the Ministry of Culture and Youth conducted an internal review of Al Burda Award over the years. The analysis benchmarked the last edition of the Award - the 15th edition, focusing on the status quo, lessons learned and recommendations for the upcoming 16th edition in 2021.
It was found that although one of the main strategic goals of the Award is to represent the Islamic world through the participation of creatives in the fields of poetry, calligraphy and ornamentation, and to reflect the cultural and intellectual diversity of the Islamic world through traditional Islamic art disciplines, there were gaps in the outcomes:
* There was a lack of strong participation and representation beyond a number of countries in the MENA region. There was no representation of Southeast Asia and Africa, which hold significant Muslim populations.
* There was a lack of participation among the youth, reflecting a possible gap between traditional art practices and youth interest/access.
The Ministry will address these gaps in the following ways:
* Launching a wider-reaching, inclusive media campaign that would reach all.
* Putting in place more diverse juries.
* Adding a digital category to appeal to youth.