Saturday, June 22
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Colours of concern

19 May 2024 By ANIRBAN RAY

Muscat – As one steps into a realm of vibrant colours and imaginative landscapes at an art exhibition showcasing masterpieces by children along with their mentors, the urge to express love for mother Earth looms large.

The little strokes of childhood innocence, however, bring forth a more serious message for the world – about the essence of our natural environment, its beauty, fragility, and the urgent need for conserving it at all costs. With creativity depicting the plight of lush green forests as well as crystal-clear oceans teeming with colourful life, the young artists have presented a collective call for action.

In an endeavour to empower young talents with special needs, foster global understanding, and raise awareness about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an initiative led by Madeleine ImKey, in collaboration with the French Academic Society Arts-Sciences-Lettres, unfolded in Oman last week.

Established in 1915, the Academic Society Arts-Sciences-Lettres, headquartered in Paris, France, is dedicated to promoting artists, scholars, and scientists worldwide.

Entitled ‘Bridging Nations with Interculturality, Inclusivity, and SDGs,’ the event, proudly sponsored by Oxy Oman, marked a historic milestone as the Academy’s first international cultural endeavor outside France in its 109-year legacy, showcasing Oman’s global cultural significance.

Under Madeleine ImKey’s guidance, the initiative united 17 children and young adults with special needs and skills, each bringing forth unique talents and backgrounds. Over three immersive days, these participants collaborated with 17 seasoned Omani artists and international artists based in Oman, infusing their creations with inspiration drawn from the 17 SDGs from the United Nations.

The pairs were selected at the opening ceremony by the chief guest, H H Sayyid Dr Kamil Fahad al Said, held at the Kempinski Hotel. In his statement, H H Sayyid Kamil hailed the innovative approach of the initiative, emphasising its role in showcasing diverse talents and promoting inclusivity within society.

The enriching workshops held at the Music Palace in Al Mouj provided a platform for artistic expression and cultural exchange. The workshops culminated in an award ceremony at the French Embassy, where 17 artworks created during the workshops were celebrated. Two standout creations received official gold and silver medals from the French Academy, recognising their exceptional contributions to promoting interculturality and the SDGs. The ceremony was held under the auspices of H E Veronique Aulagnon, who immediately embraced the project when approached by Madeleine.

In her visionary speech, H E Aulagnon emphasised the vital role of culture in promoting cooperation, highlighting France’s strong contribution to cultural exchange and the ambassador’s dedication to fostering cultural understanding and strengthening international relations through initiatives like Madeleine ImKey’s.

The grand closing ceremony occurred at Muscat International Airport on Thursday, marking the public unveiling of the paintings in this iconic venue. Amidst the event’s ambience, Maestro Alexey Botvinov’s piano performance enraptured the audience, showcasing his unparalleled skill as a contemporary interpreter of Rachmaninov’s compositions. The airport experienced a momentous occasion as it welcomed such a distinguished pianist to its midst for the first time in Oman, adding a touch of grandeur and cultural enrichment to its ambiance.

Following the closing event, the 17 art pieces were transported to the Kempinski Hotel for a two-week exhibition, currently underway. Subsequently, the artworks will be showcased in various locations across Oman, beginning with the Royal Opera House Muscat, The National Museum, and the Diplomatic Club. Finally, they will return to Muscat Airport, serving as a testament to Oman’s cultural dedication to the SDGs and inclusivity for international visitors.

Madeleine’s inspiration for the initiative struck after she received an award for her earthly-baroque inspired art in Paris last year. Reflecting on this, she recounted, “Upon my return to Oman in December, the idea to launch this project took hold. Following my participation in an exhibition at COP 28 in Dubai, I felt compelled to reconnect with like-minded individuals in Oman.

“In December ’23, we hosted a dinner in Muscat for a delegation from Switzerland and Oman, during which I had the opportunity to meet a doctor specialised in genetic diseases, shedding light on the high prevalence of such illnesses in Oman. At that moment, I knew an action had to be taken. It was a deep, profound realisation. I started planning the Bridging Nations initiative immediately, driven by my willpower and strong vision.”

She also shared that she had resided in Oman for a brief six-month period in 2019. During this time, she deeply connected with the soul, beauty, and hospitality of the Omani people, as well as the abundance of talent deserving international recognition.

“I am profoundly grateful to our sponsor, Oxy Oman, and to the numerous volunteers, individuals, and supporting institutions who immediately embraced my vision and spared no effort to ensure the success of this event in such a short timeframe,” she said.

H H Sayyid Dr Kamil Fahad Mahmood al Said, secretary general in the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers said, “As the chief guest at the launch of the ‘Bridging Nations with Interculturality, Inclusivity, and SDGs’ initiative, I am thrilled to witness a landmark moment in cultural collaboration hosted in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. The involvement of the venerable 109-year-old Academic Society Arts-Sciences-Lettres from France, known for promoting excellence in the arts and sciences, significantly enriches this initiative.

“This partnership not only highlights the global significance of Oman’s cultural scene but also showcases the transformative power of art in bridging diverse cultures and fostering inclusivity. I am particularly inspired by the innovative approach of this initiative, which pairs children and young adults with special needs alongside seasoned Omani artists. Together, they are creating paintings that draw inspiration from the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This collaboration not only displays the immense talent and creativity of individuals from diverse backgrounds but also stresses the critical importance of inclusivity and empowerment within our society. As we continue to advance on this journey of artistic expression and cultural exchange, I am confident that the Bridging Nations initiative will emerge as a beacon of the positive changes that collaborative and compassionate efforts can bring about. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the participants for their dedication and enthusiasm in promoting interculturality, inclusivity, and the SDGs.”

Abdullah, one of the participants of the event who has been mentored by Elizabeth Davis, a veteran artist in Oman, said, “It has been a great experience being a part of this event and we have been number seven in rank. Our topic has been clean energy and I enjoyed being mentored by Elizabeth madam. This has inspired me, and I shall do more in the near future.”

Fernand Girard, president of the Academic Society Arts-Sciences-Lettres, added, “Art unites people, and this is such a great opportunity for the world to know one another. This is the first time that such an event is happening beyond France and the response has been great with 17 incredible paintings from these children and their mentors.”

Following the Muscat event, all confirmed participating artists, including the young talents with special needs and a demonstrated passion for cultural contribution, will receive invitations to be honoured at the Academy’s prestigious 109th Grand Award Ceremony in Paris on October 6, 2024. Each artist’s portfolio will undergo a thorough review by the superior award commission, culminating in the attribution of medals ranging from copper to platinum, reflecting their current cultural advancement and artistic merit.

Describing herself as a utopist, ImKey emphasised her commitment to making a difference in the world through art. “I don’t want to reach my last breath without having done everything in my power to make this world a better place,” she said passionately.

Regarding her future plans, she expressed a desire to extend the initiative to other GCC countries. Her vision for the project extends beyond Oman.

“My goal is to launch this project here and replicate it in all the GCC countries with their own artists,” she said. The initiative envisions a cultural exchange programme, with artworks being exchanged among airports within the GCC and Europe. The gold medal-winning pieces will eventually find a prestigious display at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

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