On the World Art Day, the State of Qatar embraces the arts and reinforces the national identity

14 April, 2021

Visual arts are of interest to the State of Qatar because of their civilized role in upgrading society and raising cultural awareness. The efforts of arts institutions, whether academic or cultural, are combined so that art in Qatar expresses its self-identity, which is considered a key part of the Islamic civilization system.

Mr. Hamad Al-Adhba, general coordinator of Doha, Capital of Culture in the Islamic World 2021, stressed the interest of the hosting activities in promoting arts, especially Islamic arts that express the cultural identity of the arts in Qatar.

On the occasion of the World Art Day on April 15th of each year, Al-Adhba explained that the capital embraces many activities and art exhibitions that consolidate the cultural identity of the State of Qatar during this year, as more than one hundred events will be organized, including many activities related to the different types of arts.

He said that the State of Qatar has a great interest in the arts and that art has a prominent role in the Qatari cultural scene through the efforts of the various state institutions, whether cultural or educational, or even artists who spread their creativity, which shows the beauty of the Qatari identity in shaping, sculpture, photography, calligraphy and decorations. He stressed that although the cultural diversity in Doha allows for diversity in Arab and international art schools, Qatari art maintains its cultural form and its own identity.

He added that the celebration of Doha, Capital of Culture in the Islamic World, highlighted the extent of Qatar’s interest in Islamic heritage in particular, and Islamic arts in general. In fact, this interest appears in the Museum of Islamic Art, which has Islamic artifacts and other historical pieces that shed light on past centuries, as well as Doha’s architectural heritage, which forms an aesthetic element that highlights the aesthetics of Doha’s landmarks, which constitute an artistic lighthouse. The celebration of the event of Doha, capital of Culture in the Islamic World, manifests through the artistic activities organized by the Supreme Committee that organizes the celebration, through strategic partners, including National Museums of Qatar, the Cultural Village Foundation, Katara, and the Qatar Foundation.

Al-Adhba stressed that canceling public events and realistic art exhibitions does not pose a major challenge to the organizing committee of Doha, Capital of Culture in the Islamic World, and said, “The artistic events that are organized in a virtual manner give us the opportunity to reach a wider audience outside Qatar to introduce the Qatari arts and their most important characteristics. For instance, the Qatari Arts are characterized by their attraction to the cultural identity in Qatar. As a matter of fact, we notice that our Arab arts are rooted in modern arts, so we find Arabic calligraphy, motifs, letters and other arts. Indeed, some Qatari artists have their own style and their own tools.

Historically speaking, Mr. Ali Afifi Ali Ghazi, a researcher in history, stressed that Arabic calligraphy is the essence of Islamic arts  in time, because it represents the basis of Islamic arts for more than 14 centuries, and the rest of the arts, such as decoration, gilding, dotting, binding and other arts, were centered around it. Arabic calligraphy also represents the essence of Islamic arts spatially, because it shapes the fields of Islamic art in a way that distinguishes the unity of the Islamic nation in its faith, history, sciences and arts throughout the Islamic world.

He also pointed out that Arabic calligraphy also represents the essence of the Islamic arts objectively, as Muslims’ view of the physical embodiment in drawing made them turn to the art of Arabic calligraphy, which was linked to the Holy Quran. In fact, they were creative and masters in Arabic calligraphy, and they generated lines, until they reached more than 20 types. Each type was divided into many branches. For example, the Kufic script, from which they knew the leafy Kufic, the flower, the square, the Kufic of the Quran, and so on, indicating that Muslims used calligraphy in the decoration of mosques, schools, hospitals, palaces, shrines, tombs, libraries, and so on. Accordingly, Arab calligrapher contributed to the production of Islamic artifacts, whether in architecture, applied or plastic arts.

For his part, Qatari artist Hassan Al-Mulla said that each country has its own artistic identity, and it is important that we express our artistic identity in the activities of Doha, Capital of Islamic Culture, because new generations often follow previous generations in extracting the cultural data found in the environment Therefore, we find inconsistency and difference between the arts in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, or the Gulf region, including the State of Qatar, in which art is distinguished by its interest in sea life, diving and pearls. Indeed, the artist sees the sea around him everywhere and it is natural to express his daily scenes, along with the life of land. As a result of that, we find the distinction of artistic works in Qatar by hot colors such as “red and yellow”, even in the lifestyle of Bedouin embroideries, tents and clothes, and all this affects the visual arts.

He added that Qatari art was nevertheless influenced by the Arab and Islamic culture, so we find the Arabic letter and Arabic decoration that came as a result of the influence of the Turks and others. In addition to that, the Qatari arts have been affected by events in the Arab region, which causes the emergence of Arab and Islamic common artistic features in addition to the peculiarity of Qatari art.

In turn, the Qatari artist, Salman Al-Malik, valued the local and international interest in the World Art Day, stressing that the arts in Qatar, including the visual arts, were linked to the land and the popular heritage, whether in the life of land or the sea, as the Qatari artist is keen to present the folklore in a contemporary form in line with the data of modern arts. He stressed that the arts in Qatar have also been closely linked to the Islamic civilization, as we found in Qatari architecture and stucco inscriptions inspired by cubes and miniatures, even the old doors whose formation was inspired by Islamic arts, so we find circles inspired by the crescent and squares inspired by the shape of the Kaaba. Thus, Islamic arts were and are still present in Qatari art, which is the case in all Islamic world countries.

On the interest in art education in Qatar and its connection to the Qatari conscience, Dr. Issa Deby, Head of the Department of Painting and Printing at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that although the University’s Department of Painting and Printing is based on the Western model that works to develop the artistic movement in the Qatari community, we are keen to promote National identity in the arts, by following up the Qatari students. There is no fear about the Qatari identity, as there is a link to the Qatari heritage and culture. Moreover, the university is trying to help the students build tools and their cultural interests to build a cultural career through the arts, indicating that the study program qualifies the student to know the beginning of the journey and the search for oneself.

At the same time, Dr. Issa Deby drew attention to the role of society that protects identity, whether in arts or culture in general. In fact, Qatar Museums, specifically the Qatar National Museum, cares about protecting the identity, in addition to the role of “Matafi”, the Artists headquarters, in providing grants to students and providing studios and artistic residence, which makes preserving the Qatari identity an essential anchor in the arts.

He added, “The first generation of Qatari artists have their Arab presence, and that is why we seek to build relationships with Arab and Islamic cities, because the artist’s culture does not end with the borders of Qatar, and what artists produce in Qatar expresses of course the Islamic culture. He stressed that teaching arts and culture cannot be out of the local culture context, which has a historical and cultural depth related to the Islamic civilization in general”.

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had adopted April 15, at its fortieth session held in 2019, World Art Day. Its vision is to consolidate the bonds between forms of artistic creativity and society, raise awareness of the diversity of these forms, and highlight the contribution of artists to achieving sustainable development. The World Art Day also provides an opportunity to discuss the issue of art education in schools, believing in the critical role of culture in paving the way towards an equitable and inclusive education for all.