Dialogue of Papers – a legacy of the Qatar-Japan Year of Culture and an exhibition organised through the Years of Culture programme to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between Qatar and Japan – recently opened in Tokyo, Japan.

Charge d’Affaires Sheikh Hamad Nasser Hamad Khalid Al-Thani

The opening was attended by Qatari Embassy in Japan Representative Charge d’Affaires Sheikh Hamad Nasser Hamad Khalid Al-Thani. The exhibition featured 28 pieces created by prominent Qatari artist Yousef Ahmad and Japanese artist Hayaki Nishigaki. It will be on view at the popular 3331 Arts Chiyoda artistic hub in Tokyo from 10 to 30 June.

Years of Culture was established in 2012 by Qatar Museums Chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to promote mutual understanding, recognition and appreciation between Qatar and the world. Since then, the Years of Culture programme has been remarkably successful in its mission partnering with the UK, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India, France, and other nations over the past decade.

Opening the event, Acting Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art Dr Aisha Al Misnad, who also curated the exhibition, said that the Dialogue of Paper exhibition is a special exhibition to mark the 10-year anniversary of Qatar’s Year of Culture and the 50 years of strong ties between Qatar and Japan. Japan was in fact the inaugural Year of Culture partner.

We are privileged to be able to display these stunning pieces that represent the lasting artistic collaborations the exchange launched. At Qatar Museums we believe that when cultures connect, we create beautiful things. As an outcome of this collaboration, the exhibition is a true embodiment of this sentiment.

Dialogue of Paper

Dialogue of Paper is the result of an incredible collaboration between Yousef Ahmad and Hayaki Nishigaki, highlighting the similarities between the cultural practices of papermaking and calligraphy in Japan and Qatar.

Together, Ahmad and Nishigaki mixed Japanese washi dough – a richly historic symbol of Japanese culture – with dough made from the fronds of the Qatar palm tree, considered a blessed tree in Arabic and Islamic culture. The result was a neo-hybrid paper that served as the literal medium, which also represented the merging of two different environments and cultures.

Yousef Ahmad and Hayaki Nishigaki

Each artist then applied their own interpretation of calligraphy onto the paper to create a unique visual vernacular that explores both difference and similarity between the two cultural traditions.

One special piece embodies the beauty that emerges when cultures connect.

‘We made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another’ features a verse from the Holy Quran, chosen by Ahmad, that expresses the importance of a good relationship between different nations.

The chosen verse is represented as a circular sentence in the centre of the artwork, with Nishigaki decorating the space in his own artistic style. In a symbolic turn of events, the resulting artwork matched the Arabic calligraphy style called Jeli Diwani. Ahmad had practiced this type of Arabic calligraphy for the first time in 1970, which coincidentally was also the start of the relationship between Qatar and Japan.

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