“Art is a universal language inspired by beauty” — Soumaya Akbib, fashion designer and art enthusiast
January 29 2020 09:48 PM
EXHIBITION: Soumaya Akbib standing in front of the works of Tomas Baletzena.

Globalisation has not only brought people of different countries together but also magnified the differences and gaps among diverse communities. To bridge the gaps and understand different people in a better way, the role of art cannot is crucial.
In efforts to familiarise the people of Qatar with the art and culture of Spain, the exhibition entitled Spanish Artists in Doha has been going on in Katara. The exhibition contains 65 fascinating works of 13 Spanish artists put on display at Building 47.
Art & Culture without Borders, a Spanish non-profit organisation, has brought the art works to Doha. Community interviewed Soumaya Akbib, President of Art & Culture without Borders, who herself is a fashion designer and art enthusiast.

Please give us a brief introduction of yourself, including your childhood, education, and professional experience.
I was born in Tangier (Morocco) and moved to Spain in 2005. I have always loved fashion, and after being the CEO of my textile company in Morocco that exported its products to Europe, I had a terrible car accident and had to take over a year off. I then started my fashion brand Somaya Novias that has been very successful, and I have loyal clients in Spain and the Middle East. I am now introducing the brand in Qatar.

When and how Art & Culture without Borders was born? What is the most important objective of the organisation?
The foundation was created three years ago. It is a Spanish foundation registered as a civil society organisation with the United Nations. Our mission is the celebration of common humanity through art and culture as a link between people of different ethnic backgrounds and religions.

When were you got connected with the organisation? What have been the salient activities of the organisation so far?
I started with a project in 2018 that was a commercial event called Spanish-Arab Fashion that I organised at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid. The idea was a fashion festival of Arab designers and Spanish designers — to unite two different cultures through fashion — and it was a great success. There, I met Charles Markeaton-Mundy, and he offered to join forces with me if I started a non-profit organisation, and that is how Art & Culture without Borders was born. He became a goodwill ambassador and asked many of his friends around the world to be a part of the foundation. Princess Beatrice of Orleans was invited to be our honorary president. We now have a fantastic list of goodwill ambassadors namely; Princess Ana Maria al-Senussi of Libya, Prince Paden Namgyal of Sikkim, Princess Amal Alayamini al-Sabah from Kuwait, Princess Mina Lehari, Yungchen Lhamo, Dr Alice Kandell and Countess Yelitza Karoly amongst others.
I have organised another very successful Spanish-Arab Fashion with the Kingdom of Morocco as the guest country last year in Madrid, an art workshop with underprivileged children of Tangier, an art workshop with women saved from slavery and sexual exploitation in Madrid last summer and now the Spanish Artists in Doha exhibition.
On the 3rd of April we have our third award ceremony in Tangier. This year’s honourees are namely; Prince Ermias of Ethiopia, Prince Idris of Libya, Antonio Banderas, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemysza, Ella Fontanals Cisneros, Vivian Ventura, Olajumoke Adenowo, Johan Ernst Nilson, Mounira Bouzid El Alami and Sidney Possuelo.

How and when your interest in art started? With all your experience how do you define art?
I have always been interested in fashion and fashion is greatly influenced by art. Art is a language inspired by beauty. The beautiful thing about art is that it is a universal language that we can all understand and be touched by it.

Please share your views on how has the Spanish Artists in Doha exhibition fared?
So far, it has been very successful. The foundation is extremely grateful to Belen Alfaro, Spanish Ambassador to Qatar, and Dr Khaled bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti, General Manager of Katara Cultural Village, for their contribution to the success of the exhibition. I am delighted to announce that the exhibition has been now prolonged to February 13. Everyone in Doha interested in art can have the opportunity of visiting the exhibition and purchasing a beautiful painting for their home or collection.

How would you best describe the art scene of Doha? Do you have any plans to return to Qatar with more artists?
Doha has become an extraordinary city. I have only praise for the social reforms led by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and her work in the fields of education, science and community development. This has paved the way for the art scene in Doha to be vibrant. Thanks to the fantastic work of HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the team of Qatar Museums, Doha is a must see destination on the world art scene.
We are planning to propose an exhibition of four women photographers that are adventurers and have travelled the world. They are Ana Maria Chediak (Ecuador), Esmeralda Martin (Spain), Mariacruz Sainz de Aja (Mexico) and Moudhi Hamad Abosatwa al-Hajri (Qatar) and, of course organising another exhibition of Spanish Artists in Doha for 2021.
Truth be told, the foundation would very much like to do many projects in Qatar as, during my stay, I have fallen in love with the country, and I know that our honorary president, Princess Beatrice of Orleans, feels the same.

How vital are sponsors for the foundation’s projects as a non-profit organisation?
Art & Culture without Borders is a non-profit organisation and we, therefore, need corporate sponsorship and private donations to be able to continue our work and fulfil our mission. We are grateful to Qatar Airways and the Mondrian hotel in Doha for having helped us in this wonderful initiative. We have a programme called Friends of Art & Culture without Borders that welcomes everyone that wants to make donations to the foundation and be part of the work we do.

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