Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar’s (VCUQatar) research project titled ‘Orality to Image: Traditional Qatari Narratives and Visual Media’, funded through the Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) grant by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) came in third at QNRF’s Fifth UREP Competition.
UREP had 88 projects from post-secondary institutions across Qatar nominated for the competition, and Orality to Image was among the five final projects selected to be presented to a panel of judges on Wednesday 27 March 2013 at the QNRF Event Hall in Tornado Tower. VCUQatar students Al Hussein Wanas and Felicity Ulmer presented the project at the competition and won third place.
Orality to Image: Traditional Qatari Narratives and Visual Media, which was awarded the UREP grant in 2011, aimed to preserve and represent traditional Qatari culture by adapting cross-generational oral narratives (folk tales) into text and graphic form. The project was inter-institutionally collaborative, involving both faculty and students from Qatar University and VCUQatar, and inter-disciplinary, encompassing both the humanities and the arts.
The goals and objectives of the project were to increase awareness of Qatari history, tradition and culture among the general reading public in this region and beyond, and particularly among young adults; to increase reading among young adults who may be resistant to books and other materials that do not support their specific learning styles and/or relate to their socio-cultural context; and to provide opportunities for general and young adult readers to explore a text-based graphic medium to stimulate interest in reading, the visual arts, and Qatari culture.
The project was led by VCUQatar Assistant Professor of English and Assistant Director of Liberal Arts and Sciences Patricia Paine Gibbons along with assistant professors Jesse Ulmer, Michael Hersrud and Donald Early in collaboration with Dr Sara Al Mohannadi, assistant professor of English Language at Qatar University. The students, which are a combination of VCUQatar graduates and undergraduates, who worked on this project were Al Hussein Wanas, Felicity Ulmer, Fatma Al Remaihi, Abdulla Al Kuwari, Mariam Al Sarraj, Wafaa Al Saffar, Sara Al Mulla, Reem Al Hajri, Noora Al Sulaiti, Joanne Bermejo, Ghada Al Suwaidi, Fatma Maki, Zoë Shankle Donald, Nada Hammada, Leila Natsheh, Yasmeem Al-Abdulla, Alanood Al Thani, Eman Mohamed Ali, Amber Ericson, Rana Jubara, Khadija Safri, Noora Al Khulaifi, Sahar Mari, Ameera Makki, Haneen Al Sulaiti, Maryam Al Khalifa, Abdulla Al Gosaibi, Nawar Al Mutlaq, Mashaer Alyaarbi and Ahood Al Dafa.
The oral folk tales were collected, transcribed into Arabic, following which they were translated into English by Qatar University students. The folk tales were then illustrated by VCUQatar students. These illustrated stories were collected in a 260 page book targeted at readers who are interested in Qatari culture in general, and young adult readers in particular. The book, titled The Donkey Lady and Other Tales from the Arabian Gulf, was published by Berkshire Academic Press, and was released earlier this year.
The Donkey Lady and Other Tales from the Gulf preserves regional culture while also serving as an introduction to the visual arts for young audiences. From mischievous goats to magical fish, the book offers readers a diverse and delightful collection of illustrated folk tales from the Middle East. These timeless and beautifully rendered tales are of interest to readers of all ages, and are especially relevant to those interested in folk tales and lore, as well as graphic and children’s literature. The book is edited by Paine Gibbons, Ulmer and Hersrud and published by the Berkshire Academic Press, United Kingdom. “The book, which is informative and engaging, is valuable for use in the classroom and beyond to educate readers about traditional Qatari culture and lore. It also promotes literacy and instills an appreciation for reading and the visual arts,” said Gibbons.