Qatar Museums (QM) holds a strong belief in the importance of protecting the country’s history, and heritage and natural sites. In 2020, QM and the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) laid out new initiates to protect and preserve the country’s heritage and archeological sites, and natural reserves. 

Cleanup drive

QM has signed a cooperation agreement with MME, represented by Al Shamal Municipality, and the Seashore Contracting and Engineering Group, to clean the coastlines of cultural villages across the country.

Based on the agreement, the three parties will cooperate over a one-year period to roll out a programme aimed at cleaning the coastlines of cultural villages, starting with the ancient city of Al Zubara. The parties will provide support for volunteers and participants in the initiative.

Experts from QM will introduce volunteers to cultural sites and the importance of cleaning the coastline, in addition to developing an online application that identifies cultural sites and provides a historical overview of the region.

‘Beaches represent an attraction for tourists, which makes such sites prone to pollution. Our cooperation with MME and Seashore Group falls in line with QM’s keenness to raise awareness of the importance of archaeological sites and villages, and the need to preserve them as a living example for future generations. Thus, we are pleased to join efforts with various state institutions, the private sector and community members to accomplish this noble mission, and to protect our rich heritage that dates back thousands of years,’ said the CEO of QM, Ahmed Musa Al Namla.

The new agreement falls within the context of QM’s partnership with relevant state agencies, community members and volunteers to preserve Qatar’s archeological sites.

QM connects the museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites in Qatar and creates the conditions for them to thrive and flourish. It centralises resources and provides a comprehensive organisation for the development of museums and cultural projects, with a long-term ambition of creating a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure for Qatar. 

Under the patronage of HH the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and led by its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, QM is consolidating Qatar’s efforts to become a vibrant centre for the arts, culture and education in the Middle East and beyond.

As part of the cleanup initiative, the MME’s General Cleanliness Department and Natural Reserves Department, in cooperation with Seashore Group, is targeting the public about the importance of keeping the beaches clean, and disposing of trash in designated containers. The innovative campaign involves the use of signage in the shape of fish, containing awareness messages, as well as garbage containers that resemble huge fish. The use of the fish-shaped elements highlights the importance of marine life and the damage caused by plastic on the marine environment.

Protecting public art

QM Richard Serra art installation

In September 2020, QM launched a campaign to protect and preserve public art and installations across the country, encouraging the wider community to share in the responsibility of #OurPublicArt. 

As part of the campaign, the museum has installed anti-vandalism signage at Zekreet, where Richard Serra’s desert sculpture East-West/West-East, a set of four standing steel plates, has been vandalised by amateur graffiti, drawings and scratches. 

‘Qatar boasts a vibrant public art scene that not only brings to life urban areas but also sparks debate on topical issues of global relevance. It is unfortunate that some public art pieces, such as Richard Serra’s installation, have been defaced with scrawling and tags by visitors to Zekreet,’ said Al Namla.

‘Vandalism of public artworks damages a national asset that is meant for the enrichment of the entire community and is forbidden by law. As public art belongs to us all, it is our collective responsibility to respect, preserve and protect it. Qatar Museums strongly encourages the community to take pride in these incredible works, which have been created to be enjoyed by us all,’ he added.

The signage, installed in collaboration with Ashghal, serves to educate the community on what constitutes vandalism of public art: drawing, marking, spray painting, scratching or any other act that damages or defaces an installation. In the coming months, QM will also undertake a cleanup drive to restore Serra’s installation. 

Serra’s breathtaking installation, located in the Brouq nature reserve, spans over a kilometre and comprises four steel plates, each over 14 m in height, standing in stark contrast to the topography of the land and the desolate space in the heart of the desert.  

East-West/West-East is one of many awe-inspiring public artworks by renowned artists, including Damien Hirst, El Seed, Louise Bourgeois and Subodh Gupta, which can be found dotted across the country, taking art beyond four walls and breathing life into shared spaces. 

QM is committed to nurturing a thriving public art scene through #OurPublicArt that reflects the artistic expression of the wider community. Throughout the year, the museum leads a number of public art initiatives, including the 6/5 Open Call, Public Art Student Competition and Mural Open Call, that invite the community to unleash their creativity and actively contribute to Qatar’s vibrant cultural dialogue through pieces that represent Qatar’s past, celebrate its modernity and contemplate the country’s future.

Author: Ola Diab

This feature is from the ‘Special Features’ section in Marhaba – Issue 79 (December 2020).

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