Art: connecting communities
June 04 2020 11:58 PM

Art played a key role to express individual experiences during the blockade on Qatar as citizens and residents went through the political shift, Mohamed Faraj al-Suwaidi, Qatari artist, said. “The creative community continued to expand during this time and gained public prominence,” he told Gulf Times, while observing that the creative platform proved to be effective in communicating with the public and sent a positive message while spreading awareness.
Al-Suwaidi, also an architect, designer, and teaching assistant at Qatar University’s Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, was sharing his view and experiences on the blockade, which marks its third anniversary today. He said, “Politics has become a consistent topic to address the society, hence, the exposure to the surrounding conflicts and debates created a continuous dialogue between the different communities in Qatar.”
Al-Suwaidi also underlined the crucial role of artists and content creators in helping prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. The use of social media as a medium, he added, also created many opportunities to connect with the general public and raise awareness on Covid-19.
Various campaigns, talks, and initiatives were organised by artists and communities to help support the Qatari government, which continues to implement various methods and measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to al-Suwaidi.
He said a major part of this requires the co-operation of the society to take precautions and increase social distancing measures.
“Social distancing has become the standard approach to reduce the spread of the virus. This then followed the #StayAtHome initiative, resulting in many people turning to technology and digital tools for entertainment, social interaction and news,” the artist noted.
He underscored the importance of delivering content that raise awareness and encourages different methods and alternatives to deal with the current situation.
Al-Suwaidi graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Plymouth University and a Master in Architecture from the University of Liverpool. He was selected for Doha Fire Station’s three-month ‘Artist in Residence’ programme in New York, US.
Indian expatriate and artist Rashmi Agarwal echoed al-Suwaidi’s statement saying that “Art has no boundaries”, which resonates well with the people in Qatar, particularly the creative community, during the blockade.
“Artists started drawing inspiration from the reactions of people around them,” she said, noting that hope, determination, loyalty and patriotism were clearly reflected on their canvases.
Agarwal noted that government institutions in Qatar held various activities and campaigns that spread love and empathy while the creative community started expressing solidarity with the country.
These kinds of initiatives and movements, she stressed, created a greater bonding between people and the wise leadership through visual art.
“Art has no boundaries; in the beginning, it was a little difficult for the artist community to accept and believe this unjust blockade. But soon we overcame our difficulties and came out more creative,” Agarwal said.
“As a personal contribution to society, we started our annual mega art festival under the banner of MAPS International WLL. The annual festival titled ‘Qatar International Art Festival’ successfully launched its first edition in 2018 in collaboration with Qatar Museums and Doha Fire Station,” she added.
More than 160 artists from over 50 nationalities took part in the event while the second edition in 2019, in collaboration with Katara – the Cultural Village, attracted around 250 artists from over 60 nationalities, according to Agarwal.
She said people from various corners of the world, who travelled to Qatar to be the part of this festival, were enthralled to see the keenness of citizens and residents towards arts and culture.
As the country marks the third anniversary of the blockade today amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Agarwal said artists in Qatar launched their global project ‘Future vision of Canvas’ recently.
She said the event serves as an opportunity for more than 60 artists from 35 countries to highlight their experiences, ideas, views and strategy about the post-Covid-19 situation.
“The 3rd edition of Qatar International Art Festival is planned to be organised in December 2020. Presently we are in the process of organising virtual art galleries and online exhibitions for the local and international artists community,” Agarwal said.
“As an artist, we wish to own our responsibilities with a wider and bigger perspective. What do we care about? What do we value? What do we love? We all should fill the spectral colours in everyone’s lives. Never wish anyone with pain. Wish everyone to heal,” she stressed.
“It’s truly said by Lemony Snicket – Remember, sometimes something might seem like bad news, but it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as we are in the hands of God,” Agarwal added.
Agarwal, a resident of Qatar since 2004, is the founder and chairperson of the Qatar-based Art company MAPS International WLL. She is an art entrepreneur, collector, producer, organiser, designer, and art consultant.

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