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  • Both myself and my brother

  • belong to the under 30 demographic,

  • which Pat said makes 70 percent,

  • but according to our statistics

  • it makes 60 percent of the region's population.

  • Qatar is no exception to the region.

  • It's a very young nation led by young people.

  • We have been reminiscing about the latest technologies

  • and the iPods,

  • and for me the abaya,

  • my traditional dress that I'm wearing today.

  • Now this is not a religious garment,

  • nor is it a religious statement.

  • Instead, it's a diverse cultural statement

  • that we choose to wear.

  • Now I remember a few years ago,

  • a journalist asked Dr. Sheikha, who's sitting here,

  • president of Qatar University --

  • who, by the way, is a woman --

  • he asked her whether she thought

  • the abaya hindered or infringed her freedom in any way.

  • Her answer was quite the contrary.

  • Instead, she felt more free,

  • more free because she could wear whatever she wanted

  • under the abaya.

  • She could come to work in her pajamas and nobody would care.

  • (Laughter)

  • Not that you do; I'm just saying.

  • (Laughter)

  • My point is here, people have a choice --

  • just like the Indian lady could wear her sari

  • or the Japanese woman could wear her kimono.

  • We are changing our culture from within,

  • but at the same time

  • we are reconnecting with our traditions.

  • We know that modernization is happening.

  • And yes, Qatar wants to be a modern nation.

  • But at the same time

  • we are reconnecting and reasserting our Arab heritage.

  • It's important for us to grow organically.

  • And we continuously make the conscious decision

  • to reach that balance.

  • In fact, research has shown

  • that the more the world is flat,

  • if I use Tom Friedman's analogy,

  • or global,

  • the more and more people are wanting to be different.

  • And for us young people,

  • they're looking to become individuals

  • and find their differences amongst themselves.

  • Which is why I prefer the Richard Wilk analogy

  • of globalizing the local

  • and localizing the global.

  • We don't want to be all the same,

  • but we want to respect each other and understand each other.

  • And therefore tradition becomes more important,

  • not less important.

  • Life necessitates a universal world,

  • however, we believe in the security

  • of having a local identity.

  • And this is what the leaders of this region

  • are trying to do.

  • We're trying to be part of this global village,

  • but at the same time we're revising ourselves

  • through our cultural institutions and cultural development.

  • I'm a representation of that phenomenon.

  • And I think a lot of people in this room,

  • I can see a lot of you are in the same position as myself.

  • And I'm sure, although we can't see the people in Washington,

  • they are in the same position.

  • We're continuously trying to straddle

  • different worlds, different cultures

  • and trying to meet the challenges

  • of a different expectation

  • from ourselves and from others.

  • So I want to ask a question:

  • What should culture in the 21st century look like?

  • In a time where the world is becoming personalized,

  • when the mobile phone, the burger, the telephone,

  • everything has its own personal identity,

  • how should we perceive ourselves

  • and how should we perceive others?

  • How does that impact our desert culture?

  • I'm not sure of how many of you in Washington

  • are aware of the cultural developments happening in the region

  • and, the more recent, Museum of Islamic Art

  • opened in Qatar in 2008.

  • I myself am personalizing these cultural developments,

  • but I also understand

  • that this has to be done organically.

  • Yes, we do have all the resources that we need

  • in order to develop new cultural institutions,

  • but what I think is more important

  • is that we are very fortunate

  • to have visionary leaders

  • who understand that this can't happen from outside,

  • it has to come from within.

  • And guess what?

  • You might be surprised to know that most people in the Gulf

  • who are leading these cultural initiatives

  • happen to be women.

  • I want to ask you, why do you think this is?

  • Is it because it's a soft option;

  • we have nothing else to do?

  • No, I don't think so.

  • I think that women in this part of the world

  • realize that culture is an important component

  • to connect people

  • both locally and regionally.

  • It's a natural component

  • for bringing people together, discussing ideas --

  • in the same way we're doing here at TED.

  • We're here, we're part of a community,

  • sharing out ideas and discussing them.

  • Art becomes a very important part

  • of our national identity.

  • The existential and social and political impact

  • an artist has

  • on his nation's development of cultural identity

  • is very important.

  • You know, art and culture is big business.

  • Ask me.

  • Ask the chairpersons and CEOs

  • of Sotheby's and Christie's.

  • Ask Charles Saatchi about great art.

  • They make a lot of money.

  • So I think women in our society

  • are becoming leaders,

  • because they realize

  • that for their future generations,

  • it's very important

  • to maintain our cultural identities.

  • Why else do Greeks demand the return

  • of the Elgin Marbles?

  • And why is there an uproar

  • when a private collector tries to sell his collection

  • to a foreign museum?

  • Why does it take me months on end

  • to get an export license from London or New York

  • in order to get pieces into my country?

  • In few hours, Shirin Neshat, my friend from Iran

  • who's a very important artist for us

  • will be talking to you.

  • She lives in New York City, but she doesn't try to be a Western artist.

  • Instead, she tries to engage

  • in a very important dialogue

  • about her culture, nation and heritage.

  • She does that through important visual forms

  • of photography and film.

  • In the same way, Qatar is trying to grow its national museums

  • through an organic process from within.

  • Our mission is of cultural integration and independence.

  • We don't want to have what there is in the West.

  • We don't want their collections.

  • We want to build our own identities, our own fabric,

  • create an open dialogue

  • so that we share our ideas

  • and share yours with us.

  • In a few days,

  • we will be opening the Arab Museum of Modern Art.

  • We have done extensive research

  • to ensure that Arab and Muslim artists,

  • and Arabs who are not Muslims --

  • not all Arabs are Muslims, by the way --

  • but we make sure that they are represented

  • in this new institution.

  • This institution is government-backed

  • and it has been the case

  • for the past three decades.

  • We will open the museum in a few days,

  • and I welcome all of you to get on Qatar Airways

  • and come and join us.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now this museum is just as important to us as the West.

  • Some of you might have heard

  • of the Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine,

  • but I doubt a lot of people know

  • that this artist worked in Picasso's studio

  • in Paris in the 1930s.