Emirati poet speaks about the power of art for young people

Abu Dhabi: The second day of Abu Dhabi’s CultureSummit witnessed a captivating spoken word performance by the UAE’s very own Afra Atiq, as she demonstrated the power of words while conveying personal stories about her life and family.

“Poetry has always been a part of my life, it’s a constant inspiration for me and I really love being able to perform on stage in front of audiences getting the chance to interact and engage with them,” she said, soon after finishing her performance to a loud applause from the audience.

Atiq, who was selected one of this year’s Artists in Residence for the CultureSummit, said she was happy to be able to represent her culture in a different and artistic way, highlighting the positive educational aspect of using art.

“By using spoken word, I get to present our culture in a creative, constructive and positive way. As an artist, I believe that I have a unique responsibility to do that, and so my poems have a lot of elements of culture in them, giving audiences a chance to see what we’re about and how we live,” she said.

Creating the poem itself is not an easy process, Atiq says, with some taking months to write before being completed and ready to be performed.

“People might think it’s easy to make a poem, but it really isn’t. Some of my poems take months to complete, while others I finish in one day, and so it’s always different when creating one. I wish that I had a set formula and I knew how it’s going to go, but in the end you just to have to sit there and write and think about it.

“Sometimes you write the poem and then start thinking that it’s not working, and so you have to go back to square one and start again. It’s a really interesting process, but certainly not a simple one,” she added.

Atiq, who has received several recognitions for her poetry, says a big part of her work now also involves visiting schools around the country and talking to young students about the power of art.

“Whenever I get a school asking me to come and visit, I always make time for it, and it’s because I believe that education is so important. I come from a family of teachers — my aunts were all teachers, my father was a teacher, and my mother was also involved in educational work.

“I think it’s important to empower young people and to help them find their voices, it’s difficult enough being a high school student, and so sometimes it’s helpful to have an external motivation for them. I tell them that they don’t necessarily have to become poets; they can pursue whatever career choice they want, all they have to do is believe in their dreams and find their voices,” she added.

Talking about her involvement with this year’s CultureSummit, Atiq spoke positively on local artists being invited to the event, saying it created a good opportunity for collaborations with international artists.

“It’s important for us as local artists to be part of the discussion on arts and culture, and to be able to share such platforms with other established performers and artists from around the world.

“This gives us a chance to really use art and culture as a vehicle to create change through cooperation. It’s exciting to see what can come out of this summit,” she added.

The CultureSummit runs until Thursday.


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