From ‘Omar’s Islam’ to Jaber Cultural Center
Jaber Cultural Center could have been opened by a Kuwaiti symphony band because we have the Higher Institute for Music for four decades now, while the Omani Royal Orchestra was established in 1985 - 10 years after the establishment of our music institute. But it is now one of the top three Arab bands after the Iraqi and Egyptian orchestras.
The first play ever performed in Kuwait - Omar’s Islam - was in 1939, that is of course without forgetting the first attempt made by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Reshaid at Ahmadiya school in 1924 under the title ‘Reform Debates’. ‘Omar’s Islam’ was written by a Palestinian teacher Mahmoud Najem, who played the role of Caliph Omar Al-Farouq. The cast was made up of school students including the late Hamad Al-Rujaib, who later became a cultural and artistic icon. The play was performed at Mubarakiya School in the presence of the ruler Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber, British Political Agent Gerald de Gaury and a large audience. The performance was followed by a dinner banquet at the ruler’s palace in the cast’s honor, where a silent Chaplin movie was shown.
That is how Kuwait was ever since inception. Its people loved modernization. This was exactly the thought I recollected while watching the Jaber Center’s inauguration and made an analogy between both theatrical performances - the one presented 40 years before independence and the opening of the bejeweled building overlooking the Arabian Gulf.
It was surely a joyful incident that made us all happy, but we still have some concerns, just like the ones we felt after opening the Jaber Stadium while we have no sporting activities. Taking into consideration that iconic Kuwaiti artists who had honored Kuwait for long decades have grown old, can it be acceptable to open a huge cultural edifice that can hardly be operated by Kuwaitis nowadays?
We should also wonder why Kuwaitis have failed to form a Kuwaiti orchestra 40 years since the establishment of the music institute in 1976. Why did the one formed by Kuwaiti composer Ghannam Al-Daikan during his deanship vanish in thin air? It is logical that after four decades of caring for music, a Kuwaiti band would play at the opera theater, but this is only a part of the general deterioration the state has been suffering from since the 1980s, when religious fundamentalism and administrative corruption started prevailing.
The Omani Royal Orchestra is gradually working on nationalizing its staff from both genders through special training. It started with a small number of amateurs and is now an international professional band. The Jaber Center will act as a challenge for Kuwaitis because it is a superb cultural, artistic and literary establishment that needs to be run by Kuwaitis, although our current cultural situations are too deteriorated to do so. As I said, it was a joyful event, but it reopened old wounds.
PS: The decision to remove violating vehicles’ license plates is too harsh and not studied enough, therefore exceptions were made for students and hospital visitors - haste is waste!
—Translated by Kuwait Times