Sheikha Hussah al-Sabah
Sheikha is the director of the Dar al-Athar al- Islamiyyah (DAI) in Kuwait, and it was indeed a treat for the audience to learn from her about its collection and its recent troubled history. Before the privately owned DAI was looted and largely destroyed during the Iraqi invasion of 1991, it occupied the largest of the four buildings in the Kuwait National Museum. The traveling exhibition that it had sponsored before the invasion was intended to promote good will, showing to the world that oil-rich Kuwait has both people who care for art and culture and a government that sponsors it.
Hussah Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah co-founded the Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah in 1983 with her husband, H.E. Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Special Advisor to H.H. The Crown Prince and Prime Minister. Sheikh Nasser is the son of H.H. Sabah Al-Ahmed Al- Jaber Al-Sabah, is the Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs for Kuwait. Sheikha Hussah is the daughter of Sabah II, the 11th Amir of the State of Kuwait and mother of six children. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Kuwait University and is a leading connoisseur of Islamic Art and Culture. The Al- Sabah Collection, which now includes over 22,000 objects, is one of the most comprehensive assemblies of Islamic Art in the world. She is also active in restoring historic buildings in Bahrain, Syria (Damascus, Aleppo), Isfahan and Kuwait.
The Museum’s most influential project is the travelling exhibition, Islamic Art and Patronage: Treasures from Kuwait (IAP), which had left Kuwait one week before the invasion (1990). On 6th August 1990, the exhibition opened on schedule at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg as a political demonstration of Kuwait’s right to exist. The IAP exhibition opened at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore in December 1990, gathering support for the coalition to liberate Kuwait. In the last decade, the IAP exhibition has continued to travel around the world as an ambassador of the Kuwaiti contribution to Islamic Culture. The exhibition has been hosted in the most renowned museums on both sides of the Atlantic and some Arab capitals and most recently in Perth and Sydney. During the occupation, Hussah Al-Sabah headed the Kuwait Information Centre in Damascus, Syria, which was responsible for providing the world with news of the Iraqi atrocities, and Kuwaitis with news of family and friends.
The second travelling exhibition on road is the “Treasury of the world: The Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals” from the Al-Sabah Collection, which was inaugurated first at British Museum, London on 16th Mat 2001 and then inaugurated its American tour at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York on 15th October 2001. Its tour includes: The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Art-Houston, The Saint Louis Art Museum and several European venues.
As a director of the Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah before and after the occupation, Hussah Al-Sabah has promoted a full menu of cultural programs – lecture series, multi-media theatre, travelling exhibitions, catalogues, a scholarly journal and newsletter, museum shop, art school and more. She continues to work towards the larger goal of re-opening the Al-Sabah Collection in its former home in the Dar Al-Athar Al- Islamiyyah – Kuwait Museum Complex, destroyed by the occupying forces a decade ago. She is a frequent lecturer, and a member of several boards, including the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, Kuwait, the I’Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris; World Federation of Friends of Museums, Mexico City; and the International Informatization Academy, Moscow and Academia Delle Arti Del Disegno, Florence.