The National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters is the main government body involved in Kuwait’s artistic life. It oversees the operations of the national museums, performing arts institutes, the libraries, archaeological excavations, the conservation of Cultural Heritage, and it organizes all kinds of cultural events. The NCCAL played an important role during the 1970s and 80s in supporting the development of a lively artistic scene in the country, channeling government funds to ground-breaking projects.

Similarly to other government bodies the NCCAL today reflects the increasingly conservative mood in the country and the rise of Islamic critique of Westernization, as voiced by the Parliament. This has especially crippled innovation in the performing arts sector, which is more dependent on government funding than the visual arts. In the field of Arabic literature, the NCCAL seems to play a more positive role; the beautiful Al Babtain Central Library for Arab Poetry was set up with a private grant, but the NCCAL played a decisive role in making the project a success.

As to the contemporary arts scene, the NCCAL generally supports the traditional kind of painting that goes down well with the majority of the population. In April 2012 the director of the NCCAL, Ali Al Yo’ha, claimed that it was his organization’s mission “to support the arts scene in order to cultivate what’s in the minds of Kuwaiti talents and showcasing it to the public”; but it stays away from more innovative expressions of contemporary art, with the occasional exception – such as its support to a daring exhibition hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in June 2012.

Tellingly, the NCCAL’s new website, which seems quite comprehensive and up-to-date, is only in Arabic.

Sheikh Ahmad, chairman of NCCAL, is also Minister of Information, Minister of Oil, member of the Board of Kuwait Petroleum Company, Chairman of central committee to supervise the implementation of projects related to environmental remediation (KNFP), board member of Kuwait Investment Authority and member of the Higher council for Oil.


Written by: RobertK Last modified: 5th Nov 2012
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