In July 2020, the Committee for Artworks signed new contracts with Qatari artists to submit artwork and sculpture proposals in various locations within the Development and Beautification Projects of Doha Central and Corniche, which are implemented by the Supervisory Committee of Beautification of Roads and Public Places in Qatar at the Public Works Authority (Ashghal). 

The contracts were signed with Qatari artists to submit preliminary artwork proposals for sculptures and murals that reflect the identity of Qatar in the eyes of its citizens and that add the imprint of Qatari artists across Doha. 

The signed contracts are part of the development and beautification projects of Central Doha, aiming to develop public spaces, sites and streets, raise their aesthetic value and transform them into tourist attraction sites. 

The project covers large areas of Doha, including the Doha Corniche. The project’s main purpose is to create a distinctive spirit for each area with unique architectural designs, emulating each area’s nature and history, linking roads and streets with pedestrian and cycle paths, and making public spaces livelier with easy access. Due to the importance of each site and their special character, it’s a priority of the committee to beautify many sites with artwork with the help of Qatari artists.

The Committee for Artwork aims to enhance the artistic culture of the people in Qatar, and highlight the Qatari identity in the field of art and architecture by employing artistic creativity and innovative production of local talents. 

The projects aim to revive and maintain local elements from the Qatari urban settings, which in turn contribute and increase the Qatari cultural identity and its public realm. The committee is also working to encourage partnership with local artists to add an artistic and cultural footprint in different spaces.

The Committee for Artwork organised a conference in October 2019 to present its plan for artists entitled ‘Artwork for Beautification of Doha’, during which it announced the opening of registration for all artists to participate in proposals for artwork in several sites within Development and Beautification Projects of Doha Central and Corniche. 

The Committee of Artwork includes members from the main committee at Ashghal, Qatar Museums (QM), the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME), and the Ministry of Culture and Sports. The committee works in coordination with several other ministries and entities in Qatar including the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Qatar Rail, and the Private Engineering Bureau among others. The committee is responsible for five major tasks including the construction of central public parks, provision of dedicated lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, development of the Doha Corniche, development of Central Doha, and increasing afforestation and green spaces.

Graffiti and the street art art form in general is no longer considered vandalism or illegal. Organisations such as Ashghal and QM have not only allowed the art form to beautify Doha’s public spaces but also funded or commissioned graffiti artists as well. In recent years, Ashghal and QM have launched several public street art projects to beautify the city’s public spaces.

Qatar’s leading Qatari graffiti artist is Mubarak Al Malik who has been involved in and leading several street art projects in the country including Aspire Zone, Education City and Doha Fire Station. ‘While travelling around the world I have seen this art representing each country, adding to their culture, so I said to myself, “Why I do not use this art and add my own vision to show all the kind of elements that represents Qatar?”‘ said Al Malik. He thanks Ashghal and QM for their ‘interest in beautifying Qatar with public artwork, which include artworks by young artists, pioneers of the local art movement and artists from abroad. Their artwork is present in all parts of Qatar’. Al Malik’s favourite public artwork is his piece at the Doha Fire Station, which is the fist pump breaking through chains to indicate strength, marking 100 days since the blockade of Qatar on 13 September 2017.

‘Years ago, the street art culture did not exist in Qatari society, but now, society has accepted this kind of art, and the number of artists has increased, expecially those who dabble in this kind of art,’ Al Malik explained. 

eL Seed, Salwa Road

As part of QM’s continued efforts to promote creativity from within and take art out on to the streets, QM invited well-known French-Tunisian calligraffiti artist eL Seed to decorate Salwa Road with 52 large-scale murals in 2013. He did this with the help of at least six assistants, whom at the time were students from local arts and media universities such as Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) and Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).

This project is recognised as the first time Qatar has taken on and introduced graffiti art as a respected public art form. Big, bold and unmissable, the large murals present a fresh take on a traditional art form, each inspired by an aspect of life in Qatar.

Through a unique mix of Arabic calligraphy (calligraffiti, an art form that combines calligraphy, typography, and graffiti) and ‘Wildstyle’ painting, eL Seed delivers inventive and thought-provoking messages. Through his art, he explores identity and culture, using creative expression to raise questions with topical themes, vibrant colours and eye-catching designs.

The Mural of Qatar Foundation

In December 2015, QM unveiled yet another large-scale mural in Qatar Foundation (QF) at the Qatar Academy Junior School. However, this time, QM commissioned local artists Mubarak Al Malik, Moza Al Kuwari and Thamer Al Dosari to create a mural of great aesthetic value as well as cultural 

significance. The mural emphasises the status of the development of Qatar as a nation. At the centre, the mural depicts a Qatari woman wearing traditional including an abaya (usually a black, modest and full-length cloak or outer garment worn by Muslim or Arab women for modesty) and a batoola (a traditional golden face mask typically worn by Bedouin women from the Arabian Gulf region), holding a mubkhar (an ornate wooden essence burner) with her hair extending toward both sides of the wall, representing the strong cultural origins and roots, but blended with more modernity evolution. 

The mural also features Arabic calligraffiti including a piece titled ‘Never Give Up’, which addresses Qatar’s youth, encouraging them to support and participate in the continuous development of Qatar. Another calligraffiti piece is inspired by the quotes of the founder of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammad bin Thani, which have been abstracted into modern letters using Sunbli and Thuluth Calligraphy. 

The mural also features the magnificent Al Adeed Al Shaqab who was one of the most influential stallions of the 20th century, winner of the coveted title of World Champion Stallion, showing the speed and dynamic movement happening in Qatar. The final part of the mural are the three hands that symbolise education, strength and generosity.

100 Days of Blockade, Doha Fire Station

Al Malik’s favourite public artwork is his piece at the Doha Fire Station, which is the fist pump breaking through chains to indicate strength, marking 100 days since the blockade of Qatar on 13 September 2017.

As part of QM’s ‘100 Days of Blockade’ art initiative, on 13 September 2017, the Doha Fire Station unveiled five emotive artworks produced by Qatari and non-Qatari resident graffiti artists.

The blockade, imposed by KSA, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on 5 June 2017, has recently marked its third year. The powerful murals can still be seen today on the façade of the Doha Fire Station building, each reflecting each artist’s personal take on the blockade. 

The artists involved in this initiative were Mubarak Al Malik, Ali Al Kuwari, Dimitrje Bugarski, Thamer Al Dosari and Assil Diab – Qatar’s leading graffiti artists who’ve also produced artwork in Aspire Zone’s The Driving School Park and Education City Stadium. Each artist produced an artwork which highlighted an aspect of the blockade, resulting in a series of outdoor installations that tell the story of the blockade to audiences in the most creative manner.

The medium of choice was graffiti, evoking its origins as a form of activism and self-expression. The Director of the Doha Fire Station, Khalifa Al Obaidly, said, ‘Artists are always inspired by their environment, they’re typically moved by a significant moment or event, such as the one we’re all experiencing now – the unfair blockade on Qatar. These five talented artists used their creativity to produce fantastic works that best express how they feel about the present political situation, through an art form driven by the need to speak out and share one’s opinions in expressive and accessible ways.’

The Murals of Katara Cultural Village

Katara Cultural Village is rich with many things – all forms of culture, art and architecture. There are several art galleries and exhibition spaces, theatres and performance venues.

Besides dining at one of its various luxurious restaurants and cafes, one can enjoy stunning murals depicting Qatari life, culture and traditions. In recent years, as Katara undergoes completion, it has commissioned several local and international artists to further beautify the village and its walls. Paintings of pearl divers, horses and horsemen, Qatari men and women, oryx or gazelles and many other aspects of Qatari culture decorate the walls of various parts of Katara. 

Most recently, in January 2020, Katara and Pallas Art commissioned Argentinian street artist Martin Ron to paint a mural outside Building 40. Named ‘Oryx Going Ahead’, the 6 m wide and 12 m tall 3D mural depicts the oryx arising from the Doha skyline.

The Murals of Aspire Zone

Artwork by Sudalove

Aspire Zone is another popular destination for graffiti, produced by both local and international artists. Inside Aspire Park, driving down its streets near the football pitches, there are several graffiti pieces of individuals performing various sports to encourage the public to ‘Be Active’, as their motto says. 

In 2017, Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) launched The Driving School Park, which is also known as Drive-in Doha, in a revamped driving school adjacent to Aspire Park. The funky open space allows customers to drive into the park to enjoy go-kart racing, and street food and beverages as well as a drive-in cinema – the first in Qatar – which is the park’s biggest attraction.

The exterior of the vast park’s walls are flooded with graffiti. For this project, AZF commissioned Qatari and non-Qatari artists to decorate more than 30 walls with graffiti. Each wall is unique and different from the other with each artist spray painting or painting a message of their own. Although mostly cultural, these messages also cover themes of safe driving and healthy living. Although it’s now temporarily closed, the graffiti walls still remain and the public can drive by the area and take pictures with the graffiti.

The Murals of the New Education City Stadium

Al Malik’s artwork at Education City Stadium

Qatar officially inaugurated the Education City Stadium on 15 June 2020, making it the third venue to be completed for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM.

Known as the ‘Diamond in the Desert’, the ground features triangles that create a diamond-like effect, changing colour as the sun moves across the sky. Besides its incredible design, the venue also features advanced technology such as stadium cooling, while parts of it can be repurposed after the tournament.

As they arrive, visitors will see many green spaces and amenities surrounding the venue. Within the green spaces, visitors will see plant barriers painted with various artworks, depicting Qatari culture as well as sports culture. Led by Qatar’s leading graffiti artist Mubarak Al Malik, at least 10 Qatari and non-Qatari artists participated in this project.

Street art culture is very much alive and present in Qatar. More street art and other forms of public art will still emerge in Qatar as part of the country’s beautification projects.

Author: Ola Diab

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