The interconnections between energy, culture, and society in the pursuit of equity and sustainability was one of the themes on the first day of Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)’s engaging public forum on “Global Energy Cultures” being held in collaboration with Msheireb Museums.
Experts and scholars, artists and filmmakers, are exploring how diverse cultural practices and energy, its consumption, production, and distribution, intertwine with everyday life all around the world, from the Global South to the Global North.
“Energy is the essence of every aspect of life: science, technology, communications, economy. It guides our understanding of the world and binds human communities while driving collaboration as well as conflict. This edition of the GU-Q’s Hiwaraat series takes energy in all its representations as its main theme, proposing to reflect on the profound, manifold meanings of energy and our changing relationships with it as we strive for equity and sustainability,” said Dr Safwan Masri, dean of GU-Q.
Keynote speaker, Victor Ehikhamenor, a prolific Nigerian-American visual artist and GU-Q’s first Artist-in-Residence, created an original artwork for the forum titled For Those Who Slept in the Dark with Identifiable Ghosts.
Explaining the impact of current events on the artwork, he said: “When we planned this residency months ago, nobody knew there would be these multiple wars being fought around the world. Here were are now, having this conversation about energy but somewhere in the world, there are people who no longer have a roof over their heads or ground to stand on. And some of these abnormal realities began to inform where the work took me and shifted my initial theme and perspective. It’s more about humanity now.”
Academic sessions ranged from discussions on household energy use to the spatial dynamics of energy. “Youth Voices for Sustainable Futures” amplified perspectives from the next generation.
Adding to the conference’s diverse lineup, a session titled “Heritage Spaces and Energy Futures” explored the dynamic interplay between heritage spaces and the unfolding energy future. Chaired by Nouf al-Thani, GU-Q, the panel featured insightful contributions from Dr Hafiz Ali Abdulla, Msheireb Properties, Dr Hiroki Shin, vice-chancellor’s fellow, Queen’s University Belfast, and Astrid Kensinger, chair and associate professor of Graphic Design, VCUarts Qatar.
Dr Abdulla said: “Msheireb Downtown Doha was designed to exist in harmony with the local environment. It uses technology, old and new, to achieve maximum comfort with minimum energy use, reduce reliance on cars, reverse hi-rise trends in line with the region’s traditional architectural practices, minimising heat gains and harnessing the natural forces of the sun and wind, while protecting the natural habitat and plants native to the region. We used this traditional wisdom in combination with modern technology to create a model for what the city of the future should be."
The public conference, which runs through December 10 at Msheireb Museums, will include a session titled “Decolonising Energy: Palestine and Beyond” with Dr Muna Dajani, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh, founder and director of the Palestine Natural History Museum. Other sessions are an “Artist Talk: Conversation with Omar El Akkad” and a dialogue with practitioners on “Architecture and Energy”.
It will conclude with a unique music performance by Daniel Crawford, scientist and artist, the University of Alaska, and the Doha String Quartet, a member of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
A panel discussion during the forum.
Keynote speaker, Victor Ehikhamenor and Dr Safwan Masri.