Sun, 2018-04-08 22:02
PARIS: Jack Lang is the president of the Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) in Paris, one of the worlds foremost museums for Arab art and culture.
Set in a modern architectural gem in the French capital, the Institute opened in 1987 after an agreement between 18 Arab countries and France.
With such a large Arab population, a legacy of its colonial rule in North Africa and the Levant, the French government became aware by the end of the 1970s that the country needed to boost Arab representation in government and institutions.
According to its website, the Arab World Institute aims to “create some strong and durable cultural ties” between the Arab world, France, and Europe. Ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans visit to France, Arab News spoke with Lang, a former minister of both education and culture, about the visit and the important role the Institute plays in cultural relations with the Kingdom.
How do you view the visit to France of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?
This visit is of the utmost importance. It showcases the extent of the ties and the depth of friendship between our two countries. The arrival of the crown prince in France consolidates this shared trust and several important agreements will be concluded, especially for the development of the great project Al-Ula and Madain Saleh. Our relationship is old and time-tested, and Saudi Arabia is a major strategic partner of France.
What could the visit mean for the development of Franco-Saudi ties?
The crown prince has launched a series of ambitious reforms. He has the real determination to open and modernize the country. In all aspects of culture and education — areas where France is a world leader — we are ready and available to provide expertise, content, and train the Saudi executives in France. The visit of the crown prince will help us to finalize a number of cooperation agreements in these areas and continue discussions on other projects.
What do you, here at the Arab World Institute, expect from this visit?
There is an excellent, ongoing cooperation between the Arab World Institute and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which explains the reason behind the visit to the Institute by the crown prince during his forthcoming state visit.
Relations between the Institute and Saudi Arabia, and more broadly the Gulf countries, have been greatly strengthened since I took over as the Institutes president. Among various other activities, we hosted a very beautiful exhibition on “Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah” in 2014, in partnership with the King Abdul Aziz Public Library in Riyadh.
Currently, we are working, in cooperation with Prince Badr bin Abdullah and the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, on a very important exhibition dedicated to the fabulous heritage of Madain Saleh, or Hegra, to be inaugurated in the spring of 2019. The presence of Mojeb Al-Zahrani, our director general who is of Saudi origin, also helps us a lot. He is very active in the field of Arab thought.
Also, financially, Saudi Arabia, along with a few other Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, has made a major donation to the Arab World Institute to finance the renovation of our building, designed by Jean Nouvel, who later was the architect of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. I want to use this occasion to thank the king of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince for their generosity toward the Institute.
This donation was mainly responsible for financing the renovation of the buildings spectacular moucharabieh, or the wooden lattice facade. As for the operating budget of the Institute, only the French government gives us an annual subsidy. Arab countries have not contributed to this budget for nearly 20 years. We are, therefore, obviously ready to welcome any new Arab financial contribution to our annual budgets also.
The mission of the Arab World Institute to raise awareness and promote Arabic culture and language in France and across Europe is essential, especially in the current times, more than ever. By ceaselessly promoting awareness about Arabic culture, day after day, this establishment also works for the promotion of peace and tolerance. We are also working on a big plan for the promotion of the Arabic language.
Main category: Saudi ArabiaTags: ParisSaudi Crown Prince Royal Tour Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrives in France on official visitSaudi Arabia, France enjoying ever-growing strategic partnershipSaudi prince to make official visit to France next week: sources