All photos by Chantelle D’mello
In a homage to the past, a new exhibition headlined by a Qatari artist shows snapshots of a simpler life and time in Qatar, whose iconic skyline is replaced with children playing in the shade of trees, fishing, or in the care of their mothers, and men engaging in trade over baskets and pearls.
The exhibition, painted in vibrant shades of blue and sepia, is titled “The Good Old Days,” and opened this week at Katara Cultural Village.
It is the labor of 47-year-old Qatari artist and civil servant Hassan Boujassoum, whose art is based on childhood memories.
Speaking to Doha News, Boujassoum explained:
“The old traditional houses (and) stories I used to hear from my parents about their childhood and how they used to live in the old days…I use all of this as the foundation for my art.
I look at old pictures of Qatar and use my own experiences from the past like images of our old house, my old room and how the walls were painted in blue,” he said.
Boujassoum has also given special attention to detail, incorporating then-contemporary technology like a Singer sewing machine in his paintings, though he admits that they may not necessarily be a literal depiction of the past.
“My paintings are a work of art where imagination is mixed with reality. This is what realism is about for me. They are a work of imagination and memory. My memory still holds endless images from the past and the heritage of my country that haven’t made it yet to paintings.”
Self-described as a “return to (Qatar’s) heritage from a personal perspective,” the paintings pay homage to the country’s architecture, economy and lifestyle, with scenes showing old cars and buildings, fishermen and pearl divers on boats and a more agrarian mode of production.
“Change is desirable and as humans, we all aspire for progress and development. Our country is a proud example of that. The most important thing, however, is for us never to forget our heritage and to make sure that the new generation grows up with intimate knowledge of it.”
In addition to educating, the paintings also clear up some misconceptions. For example, those who see Qatar as a largely arid desert may be surprised that lush farmland features predominantly in the collection.
The ongoing exhibition will run daily until Jan. 6 from 10am to 10pm at Building 22.
More about the artist
Now a father of two, Boujassoum first interested in art in 1984 after taking a painting course.
But about a decade later, he exited the art scene, saying:
“Between life distractions and feeling disheartened and demotivated by the lack of institutional support for my art, I stopped exhibiting publicly or even producing large paintings on canvases and the like.”
However, he added that he didn’t stop dabbling at home. “Painting and art run in my blood.”
In 2011, Boujassoum reemerged publicly as an artist, and has slowly been re-establishing himself since.
He credits his newfound success to the nurturing atmosphere fostered by local institutions:
“Emotional support is much more important to me than material and monetary support. Katara has given me a platform to unleash and showcase my creativity. This has always been the best incentive. It’s a place of merit and not wasta (favoritism). I needed a place to do my art justice.”