Sunday, 7 April 2013

Mathaf’s cross-culture students’ artwork to adorn US galleries

RAMY SALAMA

DOHA A CROSS-CULTURAL student art project produced by students from Qatar and the US and featured at the closing ceremony of the ‘Tea with Nefertiti’ exhibition at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art recently, will travel to the US to be exhibited at art galleries in Washington, Portland and Los Angeles, a Mathaf official has said.

Though not giving any timeframe for the exhibition of the collaborative student art work in the US, the official said that the inspiration to exhibit the unique work in the US came from the travelling and subsequent display of the bust of Nefertiti at Tea with Nefertiti exhibition at Mathaf.

As many as 60 young men and women from Doha, Portland and Los Angeles, who are participating in an educational exchange programme titled ‘Aber: Expressions of Culture, Identity and Language’ organised by Qatar Foundation International (QFI), accomplished the collaborative art project at Mathaf.

Discussing the project with Qatar Tribune, Acting Director of Mathaf Michelle Dezember said, “Mathaf’s education department worked with QFI and a team of students from different backgrounds, to create unique panels that had a continuous story, or narrative, much like an art exhibition.” Dezember added, “The variety of backgrounds and perspectives of the participating students gelled with the exhibition, which brought together artists from different parts of the world to explore art together. This is a really important approach to art education, which is not about trying to fit a mould, but rather trying to explore what’s possible.” The project, however, is not the Museum’s first collaboration with QFI. Dezember said, “We’ve actually worked with QFI in the past, to do artmaking workshops and projects based on our exhibitions.” During the 7-day exchange of language and experience, the youth engaged in a conversation about culture, identity, misconceptions and intersections. In the final days of their exchange, the young artists, working in teams of six, created 10 graffiti art panels visualising their experiences during their time together in Qatar, which included exploring Souq Waqif, and touring the Tea with Nefertiti exhibit at Mathaf.

The students used photography, Arabic calligraphy, stencils and graffiti on each of the canvasses to depict their experience in Qatar and share their unique perspectives and cultural heritage.

Cynthia Herrera, the director of the art project and an artist and photographer in her own right, said “This project creates a space for dialogue about language, identity and culture among youth.

The hope is that through youth collaboration, we will be able to represent not only culture and community, but also create lasting ties.” QFI is a US-based member of Qatar Foundation (QF) with its mission being to connect cultures and to advance global citizenship through education. The ‘Aber trip, which was organised by QFI, offered a unique opportunity for 32 US public and publiccharter high school students and 27 students from two independent schools in Qatar to meet, participate in an Arabic language curriculum, and work on a collaborative, cross-cultural artwork.

The participating Qatarbased schools were Ahmed bin Mohammed al Thani Independent Secondary School for Boys and Al Resala Secondary School for Girls. The participating USbased schools are part of QFI’s Arabic Language and Culture Initiative (ALCI), which provides opportunities for students to acquire basic Arabic, learn more broadly about the Arab world’s history and culture, and meet their peers both online, and in person.

Maggie Mitchell Salem, Executive Director of QFI, said “we believe that learning critical languages and engaging cross-culturally provides students with life-long learning opportunities. We chose the Arabic word Áber for this programme as it perfectly reflects our mission to bridge cultures and provide students with the skills they need to express themselves and become global citizens”.

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