American-born Qatari and the author of the critically acclaimed work The Girl Who Fell to Earth, Sophia al-Maria, will be the keynote speaker at the graduation of Northwestern University in Qatar (NUQ). A total of 33 students will receive their degrees at the graduation ceremony to be held at the Qatar National Convention Centre on Sunday.
Born to an American mother from Puyallup, near Seattle, and to a Bedouin Qatari father, al-Maria spent her childhood between the Pacific Northwest and Doha. Today she is an author and filmmaker who researches ‘Gulf Futurism’ - a term she coined to describe the glorifying of speedy urban development in the GCC.
About the graduating students, al-Maria commented that they can and should create their own destiny. As for the youngsters of the region, she said: “I think young people in the Gulf in particular are at the centre of this question of being some of the most travelled, educated and culturally eclectic people in the world and yet are expected to live in an increasingly mono-cultural environment.”
She feels that in a country, the work of a journalist or any creative professional is not as well-defined and comes with uncertainty and wide-open possibilities.
“Most of all, I encourage you to go outside of the mainstream for inspiration. Dig deep into the Internet, educate yourselves about the field, above all question why you want to make or do what you want to do,” she exhorted the graduates.
She also stated that Western media was deeply affected by the region’s public relations. “By that I mean, they come here to report events they are invited to report about. That leads to an easy ‘in’ for Western journalists to poke at the facade and not take us seriously,” added al-Maria.
Al-Maria will also be NUQ’s “One Book” speaker next semester and will conduct a series of workshops and seminars with students.
Also speaking at NU-Q’s 2013 Graduation Ceremony will be Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Mohamed al-Thani, Director General of Al Jazeera, and a member of NU-Q’s Joint Advisory Board, as well as Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro.