European Union Ambassador to TT Aad Biesebroek said culture is important as an economic driver for societies and this country must look at how fashion and religion could be married.
He was speaking on Thursday night at the award ceremony for the eXpressions Photography and Art Competition which was hosted by the EU and the Photographers Guild of TT, and held at Grundlos Kollektiv, Port of Spain.
"Culture is something which we consider as very important in Europe. It is something we have not given sufficient attention over the past year and certainly in our co-operation with third countries. But something that we have become aware of that we should. Because culture is so fundamental for every society...because culture is an anchor point for people in defining their identity which gives them a reference point for moral values."
He said culture is also very important economically as the sector is an engine for economic growth, job creation, employment, innovation and tourism.
"So when you're cultural sector is thriving you create also opportunities for the economy in general."
Biesebroek said culture is also very important for international relations as if a cultural dialogue is established "we establish a possibility to better understand each other" and there is an entry point for reconciliation if there are conflicts.
He said a model show at the Holy Trinity Cathedral generated a lot of discussion.
"Ultimately religion is a part of your culture, different forms of religion, but fashion is part of your culture as well, it is part of your creative environment. So how do we marry those two sub-sectors?"
Biesebroek said the EU has promoting cultural co-operation with TT over many years including through the European Film Festival which has had 23 iterations.
He said the EU has had photography exhibitions in the past but this year wanted to widen it and "not only promote the beauty of TT but make people think about some of the values that they might share with the EU and the member states but also some of the challenges." Biesebroek noted two areas of focus were the environment and climate change and also children's rights.
"I think the submissions are beautiful. I'm very happy to see the results displayed in this beautiful environment."
Photographer and judge Avril Edwards said the competition commemorated two very important issues and the submissions clearly demonstrated the concern and the emotional responses and values which underline the issues.
"The participants' submissions and their interpretation of the theme was interesting and diverse but above all indicative of a very conscious and thoughtful approach to exploring these issues."
Micah James, 16, won the photo/amateur/youth category after winning in the same category last year. He explained his photo was meant to depict the rights of a child to a loving environment. The photo features his father in a happy moment with his sister and his mother scolding his brother.
"One was meant to depict a child being mistreated and the other one a child being treated with love."
On winning the category James said, "It is still truly amazing to meet all the wonderful people who share the same passion as me."
James has been involved in photography since age six and is a form five student of St Joseph's College. He said photography is a hobby for him and his long-term goal is to become a pilot.
Kimlee Wong who won the art/amateur/adult category told Newsday her piece, which shows a hand choking Mother Earth, was to show that people are the ones contributing to destroying the Earth. Wong, 24, has been painting since age 13 and the award meant a lot to her and will encourage her to continue.
Other winners on the night were James Solomon who won photo/professional category, Zaheer Mohammed won the photo/amateur/adult category and Shreekar Saidu who won the art/under 12 category. Eight special prizes were also handed out on the night.
The exhibition at Grundlos Kollektiv closes today.