Art students win contest for portraying nuances of Qatar

The world is not black and white

Video still/Maryam Al-Essa

The world is not as simple as black and white, and neither are the people of Qatar, assert the winners of a new international art contest.

The three winners – two students and an alum of Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar – have been awarded a trip to Brazil following their entries to Create and Inspire, a contest organized by UK-based arts education charity Crossway Foundation.

The trio consists of students Ayaz Rauf and Emelina Soares, and recent graduate Maryam Al-Essa.

They join nine other winners from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom who were singled out for their film and mixed media submissions revolving around the theme, “the world is not black and white.”


In her still-photography film, Maryam Al-Essa, a VCU-Q grad who now works as a graphic designer at the Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf), explored how Arab culture is viewed by outsiders.

In a statement, the 23-year-old Qatari explained the inspiration for the film:

“The first thing that came to mind was our culture and how most westerners think that we are very plain. So I wanted to prove this stereotype wrong…

My project relates to the theme through a direct message which starts off with just seeing the back of two Qataris which is apparently very plain and simple but then from the front all the colors they are wearing and their styles shows the opposite…Each individual is very different in their own way. We are not black and white.”

Changing country

Other winners, such as Ayaz Rauf, a 21-year-old Pakistani expat, applied the theme to how Qatar is changing.

His entry featured a single black and white picture of a now-demolished store in Doha’s downtown area of Musheireb, raising questions about the consequences of Qatar’s rapid modernization.

Ayaz Rauf

In a statement, he explained:

“The term ‘colourful world’ induces thoughts of blissful times; this image does the exact opposite. Although some may find humour in the window sign, it shows a glimpse of exactly how much difficulty and disorder the demolition notice brought about.

Shop owners and the inhabitants of the area were flattened against an ultimatum to pack up and leave. Without the provision of a similar area to cater for the lower class of central Doha, the ‘better-off’ saw a swift disappearance of a truly distinct part of Qatar’s history.”

And finally, contestant Emelina Soares, a 20-year-old Indian expat, explored identity as a third-culture child.

The world is not black and white

Emelina Soares

Soares’ image, featuring a composition of a picture and textures from rugs around the world, drew on inspiration from her faith and heritage.

The trio is currently in Brazil, on a two-week trip taking them through Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Brumadinho.

The trip is held in collaboration with Art Jameel – a founding partner of the Crossway Foundation that also focuses on promoting a thriving arts scene, and delivering art educational initiatives to youth in the Middle East.

Other partners include local organizations Qatar Museums and Qatar Brazil 2014 Year of Culture, along with Saudi Aramco, the British Council and Etihad Airways.

The winners were selected from 35 shortlisted candidates, out of some hundreds of entries, by a team of judges that included Qatari artists, art magazine editors, and prominent officials at the Museum of Islamic Art and the Msheireb Art Centre.


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