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 fervour that motivated a group of cultural philanthropists and myself to launch this professional grant-making initiative is ever present—and hopefully contagious!
Ten years of engagement among contributors, jurors and grantees has generated over 1,000 impressive works of art and cultural practices out of 10,000 applications from across the Arab region and Diaspora. The boldness and timeliness of the issues probed by these artists and the assertiveness of their critical endeavours remind us of the potential to imagine, to reflect, to enjoy, and to change. Their output has been staggering. 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 so that we can 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 independent 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 that often go unseen or unnoticed. 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 and accumulate knowledge, networks and independent voices generated by artistic and cultural initiatives. What better way 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?
Dr. Ghassan Salamé, November 2017