In Abu Dhabi, the government has developed a robust commissioning program for artists to ensure the support of the creative field and has spearheaded creating legal frameworks and contracts that are lenient to freelancers and creative practitioners. The Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi provides varied platforms for exhibiting the work of artists from the UAE, the region and internationally. This includes a program for Emirati female artisans designed to encourage knowledge transfer, promote cross-cultural collaboration and create income-generating opportunities for the traditional artisans, typically elderly women. Through the program, which is implemented at the House of Artisans, traditional Emirati handicrafts and the artisans who practice them are protected and promoted.
In Dubai, Alserkal Cultural Foundation, a non-profit organization, offers space for 150 local artisans and artists to create, showcase and sell their work. This allows the artisans to make an income from their work, to share with residents and visitors their heritage, and to allow for exchange between the artisans and the visitors.
The House of Artisans has been instrumental in developing programs and initiatives that protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions. The initiatives implemented and under process are as follows:
* In November 2019, House of Artisans collaborated with Comite Colbert, a grouping of 84 French luxury houses and 16 cultural institutions, providing exposure for Emirati artisans internationally and placing them alongside French artisans to encourage dialogue on savoir-faire. The collaboration led to other collaboration requests with the House of Artisans from international organizations.
* A contemporary component of the newly refurbished House of Artisans exhibition, named An Inheritance of Crafts will showcase objects made by contemporary artists, artisans, and designers. Traditional handicrafts have been the motivation for their work, and they have found innovative ways to integrate those traditions in their diverse practices. The exhibited objects will showcase the works of established and emerging artists and showcase different inspirations, from traditional crafts, to new technologies and international influences.
* Another component of the House of Artisans exhibition is the Universe of Crafts. The Universe of Crafts launched this summer as a social and digital community campaign that is committed to the preservation and promotion of Abu Dhabi's intangible heritage. The collected artefacts as part of this campaign include traditional handicraft materials, recipes, perfumes, and garments that will be exhibited in the permanent exhibition in the House of Artisans.
* The Abu Dhabi Crafts platform will offer training opportunities for artisans, help in the sustainability of the crafts and market handcrafted retail products. This initiative will result in:
o Generating income to external Artisans in Abu Dhabi, through the product development plan in the House of Artisans for research and retail. Particularly by collaborating on raw materials to fulfil House of Artisans products.
o Created national and international collaborations and cultural exchanges. Introducing the brands to our unique Artisans' work created a gateway into the modern approaches in handicrafts and targets our youth to preserve and develop the rich handicrafts scene in Abu Dhabi.
o Provide beginner courses as testers, where artisans get to teach and interact with visitors.
o Developed Designs that introduces handicrafts in a way that could suit the everyday life needs, to maintain, reimagine and conserve the crafts.
o Showcasing and disseminating the knowledge of traditional crafts using social media platforms. The social media posts include interviews with artisans, giving them a voice to talk about their life and their skills as well as tutorial videos of various craft objects that can be utilized every day.
o An initiative in the works is a university outreach program that encourages students to utilize available resources within their design and culture courses. Students have access to handicraft equipment and supplies, educational resources, live virtual tutorials given by artisans as well as virtual talks by House of Artisans product development team for inspiration on how to incorporate traditional crafts in more contemporary design.
Those initiatives have created a bridge to the younger generation, sparking interest of students, fashion enthusiasts and designers. The initiatives and programs above have increased morale within the artisan community in Abu Dhabi especially when they see how many people are appreciating their handcrafted work and how those works are being showcased in the media.