By Mudassir Raja
A fun-filled but challenging artwork project recently concluded at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum where creative works of six Qatari artists on real life-sized dhows were put on display.
The six artistically decorated dhows attracted visitors in large numbers including prominent dignitaries, art lovers, artists and their friends and media persons. The one-day exhibition was the culmination of ‘Red Bull Curates: Dhow Art’ project that saw six artists, selected through a long process, showing their artistic dexterity on the dhows.
Red Bull Qatar had collaborated with Vodafone Qatar, Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum and Doha Fire Station for the project that focused on the expression of artistic talent on an unconventional canvas. The dhow — a cultural icon in Qatar — was selected as a canvas.
The other partners in the project were namely, I LOVE QATAR, Qatar Living, What’s Going On Qatar, Qatar Events, City Centre Rotana Doha, Creative Union, Smart Events, Hempel Paints, and Century Talents Qatar.
The project is part of a global series launched by Red Bull. The organisers presented an unconventional canvas to local artists in a certain country to express their talent. Usually, artists are used to flat surfaces. In Qatar, the dhow was chosen as a canvas. The project started in early November. The six artists were selected on November 23 and they started they work at the museum.
One of the selected dhows will be at Darb Al Saai on Qatar National Day. Other dhows will be taken to different parts of the country for exhibitions. The artwork created by Mubarak al-Malik depicted a dramatic farewell by a sailor to his family. Muna al-Bader captured the joyful scenery of traditional Qatari weddings. Fatima al-Naimi depicted the tale of a dhow’s suspenseful journey. Fahad al-Maadheed highlighted horses and camels. Noor Abuissa’s work sketched Qatar’s old traditions of pearl diving. Jamila al-Ansari painted Qatar’s past and present in different colours.
Sheikha Alanood bint Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani; Dr Willy Kempel, Ambassador of Austria to Qatar; and Kees Wieringa, Director of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, were the prominent figures among those who attended the exhibition.
Speaking on the occasion, Sheikha Alanood thanked the organisers and congratulated the artists for their creative pieces. She said, “We are very excited about such an initiative that falls in line with the museum’s vision of creating a community for artists.”
Willy Kempel also appreciated the art project and expressed his support for art activities in Qatar, describing the dhow art as a “wonderful project”. He also announced a wall art project at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum and said he would take part in it as a curator.
Kees Wieringa said: “I had heard of art, culture and heritage as separate subjects till I heard the idea of dhow paint project. Looking at the dhows now, I see contemporary art that speaks of heritage displayed at the museum. It all fits together perfectly.”
Talking to Community, Khalifa al-Obaidly, Director Fire Station and curator of the dhow art project, said, “This is one of the amazing projects that I have curated so far. It is challenging to find artists for such a project with its dynamics. It was something unusual to bring the artists out of their comfort zones — their studios and their usual canvases.
“But what really surprised me is that everybody, sort of acclimatised. The artists got really involved in the project and began implementing their concepts on the dhows. Initially, we invited 25 artists, both Qataris and expatriates, to give us their artwork sketches. As many as 21 artists submitted their sketches reflecting the culture of Qatar, both traditional and contemporary. We had a jury that selected the best sketches, reflecting real history of Qatar. The reflections of the artists are amazing on the history and culture of Qatar. I appreciate the project and congratulate the artists for their creative work. The project gave an opportunity to the artists to engage with community in a creative way. That was a challenge and a new experience for me as well,” he noted.
He further said, “An artist presents his character like his background, history, and practices. The artist always wants to create something significant and unique. A good artist always finds a way to deal with different kinds of media and canvases. This is what I liked that artists are not stuck with one practice or medium. We are happy that the private sector is involved in supporting art and the artists in Qatar. The government has been spending a lot to support the art scene in Qatar. It is good to see private companies support art as well.”
Mubarak al-Malik said, “I have been focusing on graffiti style using spray for seven years. This is not very famous in Qatar. This project was a new thing and it was very exciting. The dhow canvas is not simple. It took me 10 days to finish my artwork. It was a challenge to draw and paint on the curves of the dhow. It was a new thing to do. I submitted three sketches to the organisers and they selected the story of a sailor saying goodbye to his family before setting off on his voyage.
“I have learnt a lot by being a part of the project. I have to work keeping in mind a deadline and I have had to leave my comfort zone. I enjoyed working under a sort of pressure.”
Jamila al-Ansari said, “I graduated in arts from Qatar University. I use mix mediums. I like calligraphy and abstract art. I am happy that the organisers selected me for the project. It was a nice but challenging project. The dhow was an unconventional canvas for me.
“I have depicted past and present of life in Qatar on the dhow. The project has taught me how to work on a bigger canvas.”
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