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amit tandon

Amit Tandon performing Live

A little bit of humor is always nice when the times are critical. It works as a dose of respite, a distraction from everything that’s going wrong. Although the crisis in the Gulf is serious, it’s largely at a political level. The people are mostly unaffected. But, it does take a toll on the mind because you are in the middle of it.

So when popular Indian stand-up comedian, Amit Tandon, who’s also a successful entrepreneur, visited Doha recently for his maiden performance there, it was a huge breather for the people of Qatar, especially the expats. He tickled their funny bones and for a few hours, they forgot that they were surrounded by a staggering crisis.

In an exclusive chat with Doha News, the mechanical engineer from IIT-Delhi, also an MBA, said he can’t wait to come back for another show because experience-wise, it was a new one.

“This was my first experience in Doha and I had a lovely time. The audience was amazing and I never knew I could get such a response. They were very supportive and amazingly on time… although the audience was a mix of Indians and Pakistanis, everybody came in on time and we could start on time, which was one good experience,” he finished with a laugh. Well, we get the joke. Audiences in India and Pakistan are not quite particular about keeping to the schedule.

The audience at the Radisson Blu, where Amit performed, was a mix of the expat community.

“Brilliant audience. It was a mix of North Indians and Pakistanis and some people from Bangladesh. I get a lot of response from Pakistan, although I have never performed there. So whenever people outside of India get an opportunity, they come in large number.”

The language barrier was a strong reason for the absence of the local Qataris. “There were no locals because my performance was a mix of Hindi and English. So I don’t think a lot of people would understand Hindi there. And since a lot of references were also from India, it was primarily India and Pakistan.” This is also a small, but significant, example of how the hostility between India and Pakistan is also purely political, and has nothing to do with how the people of the two countries perceive each other. People-to-people contact has always been warm and they have always enjoyed each other’s company.

Amit Tandon

Amit didn’t lose the opportunity to intermingle with the expat community and found the experience quite revealing. “I got to interact with a few people, yes. I was surprised to see that there was stand-up scene building up locally in Qatar. There were two local comedians who were both from India, originally, who performed before me. It was fantastic to see that there was some local scene in comedy that’s going on there. I didn’t know much about Qatar, but when I visited there I found it to be an amazing place. There was a lot of energy in the city.”

Coming to Doha and not getting time to explore its expanding glory is unfortunate, but there is always a next time.

“I didn’t get to discover Doha because I had to leave the city the same night, around 4am I had a flight. But we went out for dinner and got great Indian food options. My experience in those 18-20 hours that I spent was very positive. I know FIFA 2022 is going to happen there and a lot of work is being done. Next time I am in Doha, I’d love to visit the stadiums and see all the exciting stuff that’s happening in Qatar.”

He also called upon Arab countries to quickly resolve the issue.

“I know the crisis situation in the Gulf is grabbing headlines and it’s pretty sad because these are countries that are neighbours and must support each other. It’s tough to say anything… In Qatar when I landed, the airport was very welcoming, the immigration process was pretty convenient and I hope it gets resolved soon because it’s affecting the entire region. I met families where the husband is in Dubai and the wife in Doha. For them it’s a huge issue.”

Qatar Museums

Driven by Germany exhibition

Two major art exhibitions will open to the public next month to mark the Qatar Germany 2017 Year of Culture, Qatar Museums (QM) has announced.

The first will launch at the Al Riwaq Gallery, next to the Museum of Islamic Art.

Titled Driven by German Design, the exhibition was curated with Volkswagen. It explores how the design in Germany has changed over the past several decades, starting with the 1950s and even featuring the future.

In a statement, QM said the exhibition will touch on product and graphic design, architecture, furniture, fashion and automotive design.

Additionally, it will “highlight the influence of German design on ubiquitous objects such as iPhones, cameras and furniture.

It also traces the evolution and development of some of the most iconic cars ever to have been designed, with the Porsche 911 Turbo, Volkswagen Golf and Käfer making an appearance,” QM added.

#DrivenbyGERMANDESIGN 3.10.2017 🏁 – @ds_qatargermany2017 @qmgallery_alriwaq @volkswagengroup_culture

A post shared by Qatar Museums (@qatar_museums) on

For the purposes of the exhibition, Al Riwaq is being organized into five “Epoch Rooms” and a “Design Laboratory.”

The exhibition will be open daily from 9am to 7pm Saturday to Thursday; and from 1pm to 7pm on Fridays through Jan. 14, 2018. More information can be found here.

German Encounters

Also on Oct. 3, German Encounters – Contemporary Masterworks from the Deutsche Bank Collection will open at the Doha Fire Station.

This exhibition contains more than 100 works including photographs and paintings that offer an overview of German art from the 1960s to the present.

Qatar Museums

German Encounters Exhibition

According to QM, the collection includes works by Joseph Beuys, neo-expressionist painters such as Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz; photographers of the Düsseldorf School, including Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Ruff; and influential post-conceptual artists such as Isa Genzken, Rosemarie Trockel and Martin Kippenberger.

German Encounters will be open daily from 8am to 11pm, Saturday to Thursday; and from 1pm to 11pm on Fridays through Jan. 20, 2018. More information can be found here.


Ghada bnt Ali

One of Ghada’s cartoons

Ghada bnt Ali never planned to become a political cartoonist. But when the Gulf dispute began in June, the 28-year-old said she had to do something.

“Qatar was being bullied, and everything that has happened with the crisis allowed me to use it (drawing) as an outlet,” said the Qatari woman.

By day, Ghada works for Qatar Museums in acquisitions. But she also wants to put her graphic design degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar to good use.

A lifelong lover of art, her leap into political cartoons only began a few months ago.

Her first cartoon, shared on Instagram and Twitter on June 11, was a peace sign, designed to look like a Q in Qatar colors.

On the recent closure of Aljazeera. #الجزيره #aljazeera

A post shared by Ghada Bnt Ali // غادة بنت علي (@geeak) on

Bnt Ali then produced a few more cartoons, and her work suddenly became, as she puts it, “a thing.”

I only did this to find a different outlet, I didn’t expect it to explode per se. But the more I did, the more I got interaction and reactions from people. I posted consecutively for about four days, and after that people said they were waiting for a new one.”

Reactions on social media

As her work began to be shared more widely, she received requests for copies of her cartoons so that people could use them as decorations for their cars, or to hang on the wall at home.

One particular design, about Turkey’s support of Qatar during the crisis, was shared by the country’s official news agency.

The design simply says “the leader” in Arabic, and the crescent on the Turkish flag is used to create the word.

“I got lots of messages from Turkish people after that,” she said.

Big ambitions

Ghada bnt Ali said she is inspired by street artists like Banksy, and that she has always wanted to use her design talents to “talk about social issues in a comical way.”

Ghada bnt Ali

One of Ghada’s cartoons

And although she’s just starting out, the cartoonist has big ambitions.

Friends have suggested she try to get a regular spot in one of Qatar’s papers, while others urge her to reach a more global audience.

“I really want to get my work out there in the global arena. You don’t see a lot of people from the Middle East showcasing their point of view like that.”

You can follow Ghada bnt Ali on Instagram and Twitter.