Asma Derouiche smiles as she gestures at a 13-by-3-metre artwork hanging in front of her.
‘This country was wrought by people who lived on the land, and by people who lived off the sea.’
Derouiche is an alumna of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts on Qatar (VCUarts Qatar). She organised and curated the ‘Synergy’ exhibition with Tariq Al Jaidah, now on display at Eiwan Gallery in Al Gassar Resort until 23 January, with a vision of developing the art production landscape in Qatar.
The collection is a revitalised interpretation of Qatar’s heritage. And one’s appreciation of the ideation and detail on display is amplified by the fact that Derouiche and Al Jaidah formed a collective to collaborate with local talents, and invited Qatar-based artists Ahmed Al Bahrani, Ahmed Al Maadheed, Azzam Al Mannai, and Fatima Al Shaiban, along with local craftmasters Umm Atiq Al Marri and Mohammed Al Balkoum to contribute bespoke artwork to the exhibition – all in under two months.
As Derouiche describes the concept and creative processes behind Synergy, one thing becomes clear: the exhibition emerged from the collective desire of a group of young artists and designers to showcase their respect and admiration for the country they call home.
It is an emotion that is palpable to a visitor entering the gallery; almost immediately, one’s attention is drawn to two large hand-woven wall-hangings made using sadu, a weaving technique traditionally associated with the region, and sofra, the craft of plaiting palm leaves.
Further down are decorative leather hangings depicting symbols. Aerial photographs juxtaposing human activities against the stark emptiness of the desert, sculptures that portray Qatar’s increasing global presence, poetry cast in concrete, and canvases that harken back to a simpler lifestyle, make up the rest of the display.
I feel it’s exciting when people from abroad – expats like myself – explore the resources available locally, and use their individual interpretation to create something beautiful from it. In a way, it’s our way of contributing to Qatar.
Derouiche notes how the exhibition mirrors Qatar’s identity – one that boldly balances the contemporary with the classic. Over the years, Qatar’s persona has evolved into a cosmopolitan, heterogenous one, and the creativity you see here is an embodiment of that spirit.
My Tribe is Qatar
References to the country’s history can also be seen in the mustard-hued wall-hangings made of camel leather; laser-engraved patterns – inspired by the symbols used by Qatari tribes to brand their herds of sheep, camels or goats to prevent them from getting lost or stolen – start out at one end of the hide, and then blend into a single pattern on the other, signifying Qatar’s journey from a cluster of tribes to the unified country that it is today.
Derouiche has another piece of interesting information to share. She said that almost all materials used in the exhibition are sourced locally from Qatar. But if you really want to know the exact sources, she said that the leaves used to fashion the haseer on one of the wall-hangings were taken from the date palm in front of her apartment at The Pearl-Qatar.
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