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Kuwait, A Golden Era and The influence of Foreign Powers.

After the discovery of oil in 1938, Kuwait entered an era where major social, economic and cultural developments took place. Although the period from 1946 to 1982, referred to as the Golden Era104 in Kuwait, had an effect on the cultural infrastructure, the impact of the foreign powers before that time has also shaped the cultural landscape of Kuwait. The change in socio-economic standards meant that Kuwaitis were able to leave behind the hardships of pearl-diving and craftsmanship and enter a new age of development. One of the changes included the increased involvement of the state in enhancing the cultural landscape of Kuwait City, through state sponsored programs and policies. The combination of state sponsored programs and policies, along with the significant impact that the foreign powers and the Golden Era had on Kuwait, have all had a critical effect on the cultural vibrancy of Kuwait City.

Kuwait City is home to a total of 71 cultural infrastructure points. A wide range of governmental policies have had an influence on the cultural vibrancy of Kuwait City, mainly affecting “libraries” and “culture and art centers”. A governmental policy ordered that all the books from the Central Library be spread out throughout various neighborhoods as the “central libraries in Kuwait were subjected to destruction and looting during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.”105 This policy resulted in the creation of 14 “libraries” throughout Kuwait City. One of the “culture and art centers”106, Jaber Al Ahmad Culture Center (JACC), falls under the jurisdiction of the Diwan Al Amiri, which serves as the royal palace of the Amir of Kuwait, and carries out projects in his name. The establishment of JACC further goes to show how part of the city’s cultural vibrancy was developed by governmental policy. Another governmental policy that has an ongoing effect on the cultural landscape of Kuwait City is the establishment of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), a governmental body that operates at a capacity of the ministry of culture. The NCCAL was established in 1973 to enhance Kuwait’s “cultural policies through implementing different cultural programs and events in cooperation and coordination with artistic, literary, scientific and cultural institutions locally and internationally.”

There is a total of 14 “museums” in Kuwait, six of which were established during the Golden Era. One of the six, Sadu House, was founded to celebrate the Kuwaiti culture and preserve the Bedouin weaving technique and craft108. Another six “museums” are prominent buildings that were built and established by either the Americans or British before the independence of Kuwait in 1961. Dickson House, one of the “museums”, dates back to the beginning of the 19th century as it was the residence of a British political Commission, Colonel Harold Dixon.

In terms of innovation clusters, Kuwait has a total of 13. There are eight “co-working spaces” in Kuwait City and five “incubators and accelerators”. The government is working towards building a vibrant entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. In 2013, the Kuwaiti government decreed The National Fund as a way “to help the country make a major stride in the efforts to support the youth, combat unemployment, and enable the private sector to drive economic growth.”110 With the government playing a crucial role post 1938, the impact of the Golden Era and the influence of foreign powers, Kuwait city’s cultural vibrancy has a lot to owe to its past as well as the proactive measures taken by the Kuwaiti government.

Researched and written by Yasmena AlMulla, Azza Elhassan, Juliette Zeidan & Wakim Zeidan The research was concluded in December 2019


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