Over half term, seventeen pupils and three staff travelled to Cranleigh Abu Dhabi for an intensive week of immersion in the Performing Arts. Musicians, dancers, visual artists and drama students collaborated closely with pupils and staff from the two Cranleigh schools, and also from the SOS Herman Gmeiner School in Ghana. This school is unique in its model of supporting and educating some of the poorest children in Africa alongside some of the wealthiest.
We began the trip by visiting significant and inspiring Emirati cultural sites; Qasr al Watan (the People’s Palace, which houses the UAE’s national treasures), the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and most importantly the Louvre Abu Dhabi. We were given unprecedented access to the Louvre, and the students were encouraged to engage with the priceless artefacts on display, to compare cultural influences from around the world, and ultimately to use this as a basis to create their own new works of Art in each discipline. Our students responded by producing a uniquely immersive event at the Louvre four days later. Taking over the entire museum and gallery and utilising every available space, over ninety pupils from three continents performed their creative pieces to large mobile audiences, with the venue open as usual.
Highlights included dances inspired by figures of the body from around the world, Greek theatre in the gallery of ancient statues, a beautiful combined choir performance of an ancient Arabic song with Andalusian influences performed in front of an ancient Persian tapestry, visual artists displaying their paintings in the Louvre alongside those of some of the most famous artists in history, solo and chamber music performances in the galleries and under the main dome, an African choir and drum procession led by the Ghanaians, and all culminating in a combined orchestral performance of a UAE National Day song. As we face contemporary challenges of religious tolerance amidst global conflict, a visit to the newly-opened Abrahamic Houses, where a Catholic Church, a Synagogue and a Mosque are built on the same site served as a poignant reminder that these religions have co-existed for centuries, and that mutual respect and understanding are often missing in our world.
The purpose of this trip was to encourage our students to see the world not just through the lens of their own culture and upbringing, but to see artistic endeavour as a platform for common ground, to broaden their understanding of global culture and diversity, and as the Louvre Abu Dhabi states in its mission statement, to celebrate the ‘universal creativity of mankind’. It was an outstanding success in every way, and we look forward to this collaboration continuing in Ghana in 2025.