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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.

Thoughts?

Black Ivy The Brand

“I’m With Kap, Just-Us” T-shirt with Khalid Albaih’s cartoon.

A Qatar-based political cartoonist is back in the spotlight for his work, this time for challenging racism in the US.

The artist, Khalid Albaih, rose to fame in the Middle East for his many political cartoons of the Arab Spring.

Last year while in the US, he drew a cartoon in solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled during the national anthem at a game to protest oppression.

Khalid Albaih

NFL player Colin Kaepernick

The cartoon shows Kaepernick kneeling, with a giant black power fist affixed to his head instead of his signature afro.

Titled “I’m With Kap, Just-Us,” it went viral at the time.

Spurring change

It was recently resurrected on t-shirts amid rallies to support Kaepernick, who has not been signed with any team for the upcoming football season.

Over the weekend, both comedian Dave Chapelle and Chance the Rapper were photographed wearing the shirts.

Some of the shirts immediately sold out, while others can be bought online here for $30 to $35 each. Part of the proceeds will go to charity.

Speaking to Doha News, Albaih said he drew the cartoon because “Being black in America is scary. I knew how he (Kaepernick) felt.”

He added that he hopes his work will help bring about positive change in the US, as was his hope for the Arab Spring cartoons.

Parallels

Last year, Albaih took a cross-country road trip with nine other Arab artists to compare the struggle for civil rights in the US to what’s been going on in the Middle East.

Speaking to the Guardian at the time, he said one of the main differences is that people in the US turned to the courts to uphold the constitution and their rights.

Khalid Albaih

“Egyptian Elections” (2012)

In many Arab nations, “there isn’t (such a system), so it turns into war,” he said.

He also noted however that the rise of US President Donald Trump and white supremacy has made it more difficult to be black or Muslim in America.

“Lots of people have reason to protest that flag,” he added.

Thoughts?

Sheikha Al Mayassa

Sheikh Tamim murals at MIA Park

The dozens of Emir murals that have been posted and signed around Qatar now have a new home: the MIA Park.

There, more than 40 of the posters that bear messages of support from thousands of people in Qatar comprise a new exhibition called “Tamim Al Majid: Celebration of Unity.”

The display was opened by Qatar Museums chairperson and the Emir’s sister Sheikha Al Mayassa yesterday.

The murals bear the now-iconic image of the Emir by Qatari artist Ahmed bin Majed Almaadheed.

Since the Gulf dispute began in June, posters of the Emir have popped up all across the country.

Residents have been invited to inscribe messages of support on the murals, some of which filled up very quickly and had to be replaced with new murals.

Community graffiti

In a statement, Qatar Museums said:

As the guardians of the country’s heritage and culture, we at Qatar Museums wanted to capture this significant moment in Qatar’s history and the artistic expression it inspired by giving it a bigger platform and audience.”

It added that “the personalized ‘graffiti’ messages are some of the truest examples of public art in Qatar.”

The opening of the exhibition comes as the Gulf dispute reaches an impasse of sorts.

It also follows Saudi Arabia’s recent public support of a little-known Qatari sheikh who analysts suggested the country was presenting as an alternative to Sheikh Tamim.

Thoughts?