Former Culture Minister and recently-appointed President of the Arab World Institute (IMA), Jack Lang hosted some 30 members of the AAPA at the IMA on Dec. 17 for an interesting and stimulating visit that included a 90-minute question-and-answer session with Lang, himself.


The enthusiastic AAPA group was firstly treated to some historical explanations on the make-up and evolution of the 22-nation Arab world and then to a guided tour of parts of the building, including an introductory look at the renovated museum.


Mr. Lang then invited members to the 9th-floor restaurant of the novel building for refreshments, including Middle Eastern Baklava and other pastries, while enjoying a wonderful view of Notre Dame and other Parisian sites.


In a frank and friendly exchange, the IMA President talked about the important changes at the Institute, to which he was appointed in March 2012.


Acknowledging mixed performances in the past, he described his new aim to reach out to the Arab Diaspora beyond the strict, geographical borders of the Arab world – and explained recent changes in how IMA is financed and managed.


Mr. Lang pointed out that “IMA is unique in the Western World” and gave members a curtain-raiser on the institute’s 2014 programme that includes a huge exhibit on the renowned “Orient Express” train which will be mounted in Paris this spring, but will then travel to other countries, Arab and non-Arab.


Another major exhibit planned for 2014 is a presentation of “The Hajj” pilgrimage to Mecca, which all Muslims are called upon to make at least once in life.


IMA plans to take into account recent events in several Arab nations, notably the “Arab Spring”, Mr. Lang said.


At the same time, he said, IMA will continue to foster better understanding of Arab culture, through art and sculpture exhibits, film and theatre festivals, conferences and other events.


– John Keating