I remember the day we decided to launch AFAC. Providing a creative space and means for independent art and culture to flourish seemed like a dream at the time. Ten years later, the same fervor that motivated a group of cultural philanthropists and myself to launch this professional grant-making initiative is ever present and hopefully contagious!
Twelve years of engagement among contributors, jurors and grantees has generated over 1000 impressive works of art and cultural practices out of 10,000 applications from across the Arab region and diaspora. The boldness and timeliness of issues probed and the assertiveness of critical endeavors remind us of the potential to imagine, to reflect, to enjoy, and to change. The momentum and footprint has been undoubtedly created. And yet, we are meeting just over 10 per cent of the demand. The next ten years will keep us on our toes to mobilize a wider spectrum of individual supporters but also institutional donors to exponentially expand opportunities for creativity in the region.
The Arab world is riddled with challenges of extremism, polarization and violence. But it is also capable of re-inventing itself. Creative expression is an extremely powerful tool that today more than ever calls upon our endorsement and support. Empowering independent cultural production is crucial for creating vibrant Arab societies. It is by supporting creative expression with no strings attached that we engender critical thought, inclusive social engagement, appreciation of excellence and foster cross-cultural collaborations. These actions promote a deeper understanding of our complex realities beyond the reductionist portrayals in mainstream media. Cultural production will be even more powerful when met with wider audiences and broader outreach. The potential to spur critical thinking and expression is monumental. The chance for young, emerging and passionate artists and engaged institutions to impact their communities is huge.
As we continue to invest in creative expression as part of our deeply held belief that it is the most relevant way to counter today’s harsh realities and inspire new visions for the Arab world, we aim in the next ten years to continue accumulating knowledge, networks and independent voices generated by artistic and cultural initiatives. What better ways to make sense of the world, to be engaged on issues close to our hearts and to push the boundaries of what is possible than through arts and culture?