“Cultural Year” is Qatar's unique experience culture

Dialogue, interaction and communication in cultural and humanitarian terms represent the inherent characteristics of Qatar in international relations, interaction with the Arab and Islamic environment, and humanistic depth. The “Cultural Exchange Exhibition” organized by Qatar Museums in 2012 is a manifestation of the national strategy to build bridges of knowledge, love, dialogue and peace, and deepen ties with countries and peoples around the world through mutual cultural cooperation.

In an interview with Qatar News Agency, officials, diplomats, innovators and museum experts stressed that this experience is unique in promoting civilized dialogue between countries, nations and peoples on the solid foundation of art, culture and creativity, making it the most extensive experience of cultural exchange, understanding, recognition and appreciation between countries.

Cultural Cooperation and Dialogue

Sarah Ahmed Al-Muhannadi, Secretary of the National Committee for the Year of Culture, explained that the Year of Culture initiative was launched by Qatar Museums in 2012, coinciding with Doha's winning of the right to host the “Qatar 2022” World Cup, with the aim of building a bridge of communication and cultural dialogue between Qatar and countries around the world. Over the years, the “Year of Culture” initiative has achieved great success, establishing good cultural partnerships with many countries, including Japan (2012), the United Kingdom (2013), Brazil (2014), Turkey (2015), China (2016), Germany (2017), India in 2018, France in 2020, the United States in 2021, the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia in 2022, Indonesia in 2023, and Morocco in 2024.

Sara Mohannadi stressed that these partnerships have succeeded in deepening the bonds of cultural and humanitarian cooperation and in enhancing mutual understanding among peoples, as the activities of the Year of Culture included many exhibitions, art performances and concerts that reviewed the diverse heritage, culture and art of the different countries.

It also includes seminars and lectures to discuss various common cultural and civilizational issues, and extends to the establishment of a legacy of projects in countries around the world, such as the opening of the Arab Cultural House (Al-Diwan) in Berlin by Qatar during the Year of Culture (Germany 2017), a cultural and educational committee that hosts various writers, readers and intellectuals to discuss knowledge production and topics of common interest.

She added that in addition to strengthening cultural dialogue, the Year of Culture initiative also helps promote Qatari culture abroad and highlight Qatar's heritage and modern characteristics, which reflects positively on the country's reputation and international status as an open country that supports cultural and civilizational diversity, enhancing Qatar's soft power on the global stage.

Furthermore, the Year of Culture has had a significant impact on the creative communities in Qatar and partner countries as it provides a platform for artists, designers, filmmakers and other creatives to showcase their work, collaborate with peers from other cultures and reach new audiences, which enhances creativity, innovation and cultural entrepreneurship.

Therefore, the experience of more than a decade of the Year of Culture has proven that culture and art are the best way to build bridges and bring peoples and countries closer together, and it also confirms Qatar's innovative civilizational initiatives to spread the culture of dialogue and tolerance around the world.

The Secretary of the National Committee for the Year of Culture affirmed that the State of Qatar has been able to successfully implement the Year of Culture initiative as an outstanding example of promoting dialogue among civilizations thanks to many components, the most prominent of which is the clear vision and strong belief of the Qatari leadership in the importance of global cultural openness and investment in culture as an effective tool for reconciliation and understanding between peoples, as well as the great potential and advanced infrastructure that Doha possesses, especially in this field. Museums and cultural institutions provide a world-class platform for hosting various cultural events, in addition to the qualified and creative Qatari human resources that support the organization and management of this initiative and develop ideas and plans for outstanding cultural events worthy of hosting. Qatar's ambition, in addition to providing creative people with the opportunity to exchange and showcase their works, positions the Year of Culture itself as a catalyst for innovation, growth and promoting culture as a way of life for people.

Qatar – Morocco

Mohamed Sitri, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Doha, stressed that the initiative of the Qatar-Kingdom of Morocco Year of Culture (2024) reflects the effective solidarity between the two brotherly peoples based on appreciation, mutual respect and service to the common interest, and shows that the two brotherly countries attach great importance to this field and are united by a common desire to push cultural cooperation to the highest level.

The Ambassador added that cultural cooperation reflects the particularity of the historical relations between the two countries through many initiatives and events that help to weave ties, present achievements, exchange experiences and encourage creativity. The event is also a favorable opportunity to present the rich resources of Morocco. Through a comprehensive program that includes many events and exhibitions, it showcases cultural heritage, ancient traditions, ancient civilizations as well as contemporary achievements.

He praised the efforts of the heads of relevant institutions and agencies in the cultural sector of the State of Qatar and the success of the events organized so far within the framework of the initiative, most notably: the Amazigh Jewelry Exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art, which showcased the works of Moroccan artists and plastic designers, the organization of an exhibition of Moroccan stamps and coins in the Katara Cultural District, and the organization of the Katara Manuscript and Archaeological Site Award in the Arab region, for which the Kingdom of Morocco was chosen as the Guest of Honor for the first edition of the award.

Qatar – Türkiye

Dr. Ahmet Uysal, Director of the Yunus Emre Cultural Center of Turkey in Doha, said: “The Qatar-Turkey Cultural Year 2015 is a fundamental pillar in the process of cultural relations and supports its continuity, and is the most outstanding achievement of the Qatar-Turkey Cultural Year. This year, according to the decision of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, the Yunus Emre Center opened in Doha, making the center a beacon of Turkish culture and a bridge of culture with its role in spreading culture and language. Cooperation between the two friendly countries.

One of the outstanding and innovative experiences in the Year of Culture events is the “Dialogue on Paper” event between Qatar’s leading visual artist Yusuf Ahmed, Japanese artist Saki Nishigaki and Indonesian artist Wedi Pangestu during the Qatar-Japan Year of Culture in 2022 and Qatar-Indonesia in 2023.

Dr. Aisha Abdullah Al-Misnad, a museum expert, confirmed that the experience was an example of the role that art plays in promoting cultural dialogue between countries, the exchange of experiences between creators, and communication and dialogue between peoples.

Qatar – Japan

Dr. Aisha explained that the experience was in response to a request from the Cultural Year Authority to organize an art exhibition on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Japan, showcasing the idea of ​​paper and its treatment as an artistic material. The common element between Arab and Japanese culture emerged through artist Youssef Ahmed and his experience of extracting paper from paper (spanning more than 20 years) and Japanese artist Nishigaki and his experience of extracting paper from the Kozu factory.

The Qatari expert noted that the Qatar-Japan exhibition “Dialogue on Paper – Legacy of the Year of Culture” (3331 Art Chiyoda Center, Tokyo, Japan) culminates a joint experience between artists that began in the studio of artist Youssef Ahmed. In Doha, more than 28 artworks were exhibited, which were made on paper mixed with Qatari palm leaves and kozu plants, using Arabic calligraphy and Japanese calligraphy, as they have special symbolic meanings in both cultures, and the artists painted and colored on new common materials, explaining that the main works of the exhibition were performed directly in Arabic and Japanese in front of the audience, and she noted the positive feedback from visitors to the exhibition, which is an introduction to dialogue. Cultures of food, fashion, culture and art, and a platform that brings together the people of Qatar and Japan on the basis of a common language, the language of art and creativity.

Qatar – Indonesia

Dr. Al-Misnad added that due to the great success of the experiment, Qatar Museums decided to bring it back with new content and concept as part of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 “Dialogue on Paper” event. The exhibition by artists Yousef Ahmed and Widi Pangestu, which will be held in the capital Jakarta in November 2023, is the culmination of a unique experience that began in Doha, where artists were inspired by cultural and natural elements and established a high level of art. The concept of the dialogue on art and papermaking is fullness and space, inspired by the nature of Indonesia: its forests and trees are intertwined, a group of islands inhabited by forests and bamboo, and the nature of Qatar. This is a peninsula dominated by desert landscapes that has brought many benefits to the country's humanity before and after the discovery of oil, including the palm tree that represents giving.

The collaboration ultimately resulted in a new universal material that combined palm pulp from Qatar with abaca and mulberry pulp from Indonesia, on which the artists created 36 works that were exhibited in Indonesia, receiving enthusiastic interaction from the audience. This was an introduction to dialogue and interaction that expressed the essence and message of art. The effectiveness of the Year of Culture emphasized the role of art and culture as a soft force to strengthen ties between people and build peace.

Qatari experts stressed that the experience confirmed Doha’s celebration of culture, its passion for building bridges of dialogue and knowledge, and its desire to showcase its creators, art and cultural symbols to the world.

Yusuf Ahmed, a Qatari visual artist who received the National Appreciation Award this year, stressed that the experience of the Year of Culture embodies groundbreaking and inspiring ideas in the field of communication and relations between countries, strengthening cooperation in the economic, social and political dimensions of these relations and confirming the role of culture as a soft power, indicating that the activities in this experience include all types of artistic and cultural practices, as well as components of human life, from food culture to fashion, to expressive and dramatic arts, narratives and ideas, speaking to the conscience of the people of a country with an ancient heritage, culture, personality and influence on the contemporary international stage, and also reflecting Qatar's heritage, character and cultural references, and strengthening its relations with the world.

Technical cooperation

Yusuf Ahmed pointed out that his shared experiences with Japanese artist Nishigaki in 2022 and Indonesian artist Pangestu in 2023 are examples of dialogue and interaction between artists of different civilizations, aimed at establishing a common language for all mankind, which is the language of art. “The passion for papermaking brings us together with its spiritual dimension and civilizational depth. We use raw materials produced from our environment and nature, so we turn this experience into a union.” He pointed out that Qatari artist and museum expert Dr. Aisha Al-Misnad commented that this experience brought together artists of different generations, different cultural, social and civilizational aspects, but they met on the platform of art and creativity.

The Qatari artist said the dialogue with the Japanese artist was based on the cultural depth of Qatari palm paper, Japanese washi paper, and calligraphy in Arab and Japanese culture, while the dialogue with the Indonesian artist was based on the dimension of fullness and space between the Indonesian forest and the Qatari desert.

Yusuf Ahmed, who received his bachelor's degree from Egypt in 1976 and his master's degree in fine arts from the United States in 1982, explained that his love for Qatari palm fronds represents a moral value for him, as it carries the fragrance of the earth. In addition to its historical depth and literary and cultural value, the Arabic letter also embodies visual and aesthetic values, emphasizing that Qatar's palm paper material, desert, sea and clear sky represent to him the wealth from his environment and society. This inspires his artistic and creative experience.

In turn, Iraqi sculptor and visual artist Ahmed Al-Bahrani confirmed that the State of Qatar is a pioneer in the experiment of cultural years and presents a unique experience by creating a new tradition in which the duration and impact of cultural activities extend throughout the year and countries exchange culture, knowledge and experience through a comprehensive selection in all areas of creativity.

“The continued efforts of policymakers to support arts and culture as a genuine part of urban and economic renaissance is evidence of national security and social stability.

Community Support

The Iraqi artist noted that the cultural year experience had an impact on society, most notably in the support of parents for their children working in the arts and creative fields, as these events highlight the noble status and respect enjoyed by creators, which is also reflected in the appreciation of various countries for this cultural experience, which is based on the fusion of creativity between domestic artists and foreign guests, the dialogue of cultures and the interaction of experiences through joint exhibitions and seminars of high and international standards.

Bahrani stressed that the State of Qatar has proven through practical experience that art has no borders, and great creators from all over the world consider Qatar a place for dialogue, interaction and celebration of art and artists, which was reflected at the summit in Doha. For Qatar Museums, embracing exhibitions and works of great creators in public art projects is one of the most prominent manifestations of cultural exchange, showcasing the works of artists of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds.

The visual artist spoke about his personal experience with American artist Jeff Koons through a lecture as part of the Public Artists Program within the framework of the Qatar-US Cultural Year, in addition to celebrating the manatee “Dojon” (2022) designed by Koons, and a model of “Dojon” designed by Al-Bahrani in the Ruwais area, which celebrates the manatee, an endangered marine mammal that lives in Qatari waters.

Moroccan artist Amin Katibi said while participating in the 2024 Morocco Cultural Year in Qatar that his artistic creation is based on hope and confidence in the future. It aims to highlight social issues with an optimistic eye, strengthen cooperation and partnerships, and build a better world. It shows the need to participate in contemporary art with a global perspective through a rich and fruitful dialogue with the world based on the particularities of our history, culture and existence.

He introduced that his work for the Cultural Year event is “Northern Desert”, which is an installation art work made of wool and copper, 16 meters high, 4 meters wide, and weighs 360 kilograms, inspired by the will of people. Interaction and coexistence in daily social life, pointing out that the exchange between artists and cultural participants through cultural demonstrations is a valuable opportunity to attach importance to cultural dialogue and build a bridge of communication between different cultures.

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