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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Creating a life of our choosing

May 13th, 2011
04:29 PM ET

By Monita Rajpal, Anchor World One

I often think of artists as people who are courageous and focussed. They aren’t afraid to do or say what they think. They are not held back by their fear—whether it’s fear of opinion, thoughts, and even change. These are things that can often leave many of us paralysed... crippling us from progressing in life and going for what we want. So when a major artist is condemned for being true to his feelings, it leaves us questioning what are those doing the condemning afraid of?

Ai WeiWei was arrested in Beijing on April 3rd as he was about to board a flight bound for Hong Kong. Chinese authorities contend he has been detained for suspected “economic crimes”.  And no one has heard from him or about him since. Artists around the world are showing their support and are demanding more information on the famed creator. Sculptor Anish Kapoor has called on museums and galleries to shut their doors for a day in protest. Others are holding exhibitions in honour of their Chinese counterpart. China has remained silent.

It’s interesting to see how the Chinese government has reacted to Ai WeiWei now; after all, this is the man who showcased Beijing as being a world-class city by designing (alongside Swiss architects Herzog and DeMeuron) the famous bird’s nest stadium. With that iconic structure, Beijing’s skyline was forever enhanced and differentiated. For a country that holds national pride and patriotism in the utmost esteem, it’s perhaps strange to think that the person who brought them that recognition as someone they will also condemn. China keeps showing they are on the path of being a superpower—and they are. But that’s at the hands of its own people. It’s through their hard work and determination to grow that is fostering such a stratospheric climb into the echelons of success. And success doesn’t come from control and repression.

We’re seeing this in other parts of the world too. The Arab Spring is a vivid indication that people have a right to determine their own paths. People have a right to grow and to realise their own dreams. No one has the right to, nor can they, silence one’s spirit. The more violence that’s being used against peaceful demonstrations, the more I want to ask those governments what are you afraid of? Change is never comfortable. Trust me, even on a singular, personal level, to change one’s own habits and thinking is never easy. But we have two choices, stay stagnant and die having lived a stunted life or push through the pain and experience a life that’s a true reflection of your soul. Having a choice is a God-given right. Isn’t that why we’re here? Perhaps in that way, we’re all trying to be artists, creating a life of our choosing. And those who are willing to die for their art are heroes.

Future Connector – Jane Bussmann

May 12th, 2011
01:08 PM ET

Jane Bussmann is a comedy writer and performer who has become one of the world’s most unlikely experts on Uganda.

A Londoner who relocated to Los Angeles for work, she embarked on a life changing trip to Africa after meeting human rights activist John Prendergast.

Desperate to impress him she feigned an interest in his line of work and soon found herself investigating the Lord’s Resistance Army and in particular its leader, Joseph Kony.

She chronicled her adventures and converted them into the novel The Worst Date Ever, which she also performs as a stand up comedy routine.

Now based in New York she remains an outspoken voice – shouting loud on behalf of the people of Uganda.

This is your chance to ask Jane YOUR questions. And Don't forget to tell us where you're writing from.

Future Connector – Gisele Bundchen

May 11th, 2011
07:07 PM ET

She's topped Forbes list as the highest paid model in the world. And it's certainly not hard to see why.

Born in Brazil, Gisele Bundchen is the most famous face of the supermodel world.

She was discovered at the age of 13 and went on to be a professional volleyball player before becoming a full-time model.

Soon after coming to the states, she became the most recognized Victoria's Secret Model and went on to earn deals with numerous other brands.

Her romantic life also became the topic of much gossip when she dated actorLeonardo Dicaprio for five years. Today she is married to American Football legend Tom Brady.

Today Gisele is tackling a new frontier. She's a United Nations Environmental Ambassador and has recently set up the WED challenge to encourage someone to plant the next forest.

This is your time to send in your questions for Gisele Bundchen. Ask what you want and don't forget to tell us where you're writing from!

Wednesday's Connector – Julie Andrews

May 8th, 2011
02:16 PM ET

She's an academy award-winning actress and singer.  Dame Julie Andrews is the archetypal musical theater star, known for her role as the singing nun in The Sound of Music (1965). Still popular today, this was one of the biggest box office successes of all time and the highest-grossing movie of its day.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/14/andrews.art.jpg caption="Julie Andrews"]

Starting out on the vaudeville stage, Andrews was discovered as a child to have an incredibly rare range: the ability to sing four octaves.

While she played the original Eliza Dolittle in the Broadway musical My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn played the part in the movie adaptation in 1964.  Studio executives did not want Andrews because she hadn't had any experience in film and thought Hepburn would be the better choice.

That same year, Andrews accepted the role of Mary Poppins in the Disney film alongside Dick Van Dyk – for which she scooped a best actress academy award.

Sadly, an operation on her vocal chords left her voice badly damaged in 1998.

No longer able to take singing roles, Andrews went on to star in the Princess Diaries and Shrek, proving that even without her singing ability she is one of the most loved actresses of her generation.

While co-authoring children's book Simeon's Gift with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews worked hard to recover her famous voice, and returned to the stage after a 30-year absence with a comeback musical performance in  2010.

Her latest children's book installment, The Very Fairy Princess, has just been released.

If you have any questions for Julie Andrews, fill out the form below and we'll put them to her. Don't forget to tell us where you're writing from.

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