East-West: The Art of Dialogue

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The Shafik Gabr Foundation announces the launch of “East-West: The Art of Dialogue”, a new charitable initiative to encourage and stimulate dialogue between the Arab world and the West.

The initiative, inspired by founder Shafik Gabr’s passion for the European and American artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries who travelled to the Middle East and immersed themselves in the local culture and way of life, will sponsor exchanges between young emerging leaders in the arts, sciences, law, media, business and social entrepreneurship from the Arab world and the West.

By enabling them to observe and share in each others’ cultures and societies at close quarters, to create new networks and to communicate their experiences more widely, the Foundation aims to help reverse the erosion of public understanding and trust, to recover the profound commonalities and to value the enriching differences between East and West.

The multi-million pound initiative will be inaugurated at the Dorchester Hotel in London on 15 November 2012. Panel discussions involving leading figures from the diplomatic, art, business and media worlds will be chaired by the BBC presenter Nik Gowing. Panelists include Sir Sherard Cowper Coles, former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, Lord Poltimore, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, and Hussein Fahmy, actor and former President of the Cairo International Film Festival. Similar events will take place in Washington and New York this year and in Paris, Istanbul and Cairo in 2013.

The launch coincides with the publication of a new book – “Masterpieces of Orientalist Art: The Shafik Gabr Collection” and 26 masterpieces from this collection will be on display at the Dorchester.

Mr Shafik Gabr said:

“Despite the massive growth of access to electronic and social media in recent years, empathy and understanding between the Arab World and the West have declined, curiosity is ebbing and stereotypes risk hardening into caricature. The long-term implications for relations between East and West are deeply worrying.

Mr. Shafik Gabr continued: “The Orientalist traveller painters, whom I call the early globalists, demonstrated through first-hand portrayals of the Arab World the power of close observation to transcend stereotypes and engender empathy and informed understanding.

“Rebuilding the bridges that once existed is what “East-West: The Art of Dialogue” aims to achieve. I believe passionately in the power for good that can result,” he concluded.

Targeting twenty candidates aged between 24-30 years, initially drawn from Egypt, Bahrain, the US and the UK, The Art of Dialogue programme will sponsor a series of exchanges designed to provide participants with unique insights into each others’ societies and help promote professional and personal relationships across cultures. The candidates will be tasked with developing creative projects which will bridge social and cultural divides and reach out beyond their home communities to a wider public. These projects will be presented at a conference in Washington, DC in November 2013 which they themselves will help shape and organise.

About Shafik Gabr

For further information, please contact:
Dina Shoukry on +44 (0)20 7861 8551/ +44 (0)7920 703 777 or
Luke Havill on +44 (0) 207 861 8598/ +44 (0) 7909 534 621 or
Georgie Gibbs on +44 (0)20 7861 8574
Or visit www.eastwestdialogue.org