In honor of the 50th UAE National Day, Akkasah, the photography archive at NYU Abu Dhabi’s al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art, has launched the Collection of HE Butti Bin Bishr, private secretary of the late His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, with 11 digitized images. The full collection, which will be released in the coming year, marks an important collaboration between Akkasah and HE Butti Bin Bishr's granddaughter, Maryam Al Falasi.
Between 1968 and 1978 HE Butti Bin Bishr served as the private secretary, and later as the director of the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s office. The 723 photographic prints and 136 unique documents and letters that comprise the collection were created during this period, offering a rare view of the daily life and diplomatic events at the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s court.
HE Butti Bin Bishr, who was born on Muharram 21, 1360 AH (May 18, 1941 AD), passed away on Rabi al Awwal 1432 (February 22, 2011). After working as the director of the Oman Bank in Al Ain, HE Butti Bin Bishr occupied a number of different administrative positions at the court of the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, before becoming private secretary and then the director of his Office. Since his passing, Maryam Al Falasi, his granddaughter, has cared for his valuable collection. She approached Akkasah after reading an article about the archive and soon afterwards the Center’s Archivists, Jasmine Soliman and Jonathan Burr, visited and conducted an appraisal and inventory of the Collection over two days.
Soliman said: “Working with Maryam has been a pleasure for Akkasah. Her generosity in sharing the collection and her knowledge of both her family’s and the UAE’s history will enable us to catalogue the collection with great detail; attributing names, dates, and locations to many of the photographs. These details will bring a richness to our understanding of the collection and to the documentation of the UAE’s history.”
She added: “Our flexible model of building collections means that we can work with individuals and families who are happy for their photographic collections to be digitally archived and shared on akkasah.org, whilst they retain the physical photographs. Over 2,800 of the images currently online are a result of 'digitize and return' collaborations.”
Commenting on the collaboration, Al Falasi said: “I’ve always been passionate about this archive because of how dear these photographs were to my grandfather. Digitizing his archive is a way for me to contribute to his legacy and ultimately to the UAE’s history. Through the preservation of these photographs and documents, I’m honoring his memory.”
Akkasah is home to a thriving archive of the photographic heritage of the Arab world and the neighboring region. Part of al Mawrid, the Arab Center for the Study of Art, Akkasah is dedicated to documenting and preserving the diverse histories and practices of photography from the region, and our growing archive contains at present over 33,000 images, with over 11,000 currently online. The archive is open to scholars, students and the general public by appointment. Akkasah welcomes proposals for new collections and collaborations.