Art Ambassador in Houston
Muna Al Bader creates her signature artwork in blue on the walls of the University of Houston as part of the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture and in this process educates students about life and developments in Qatar, bridging cultures and bringing people together.
Muna Al Bader is well-known in the art community in Doha with her art work exhibited at galleries and shows and now she has made a mark in the creative street art sphere in the US as well. Being a part of Jedariart, she along with Qatar Museums, collaborated with the Year of Culture programme to bring to life her art on the walls of the city of Houston.
Muna Al-Bader’s mural is prominently placed outside of the UH College of Technology, Houston. Her mural is one in a handful of Jedari Art projects in the United States celebrating the Qatar-USA2021 Year of Culture, an annual international cultural exchange deepening understanding between nations and their people. A Year of Culture this year is about a cultural immersion building connections between Qatar and the United States, celebrating the two cultures.
“In the 50-plus years since Public Art’s founding, we’ve undertaken many international projects as well as generated countless opportunities for our artists to develop their first works in the public realm. However, I have to say that Muna’s mural has been our first truly global collaboration,” says said María C. Gaztambide, Public Art UHS director and chief curator, “Our time together enriched all who came together in support of Muna’s mural—students, colleagues, faculty, the community, and new friends who joined us from near and far. Now that the mural is complete, it remains as a prescient marker for the experience as well as a bridge between cultures.”
Reflecting on the importance of the visual arts from ancient times to the present day and their role in building bridges of knowledge and communication through the ages, Muna has always created work that straddle the traditional and the contemporary. Her usage of the colour blue is by itself a reflection of her love for her country and its pearl-diving history. She believes that art transcends borders and languages being a perfect tool for peace and understanding.
“Artists contributed to building civilisations. I had visited Houston back in 2013 when my father was in a medical treatment here and I sought the kindness of its people. What distinguishes the people of Houston is their friendly nature and how they welcome people they meet for the first time. When I started working on the mural at the University, I interacted with many students and I was impressed that many of them knew how to speak Arabic, even if it is the basics,” she says about her experience in Houston.
But what truly stuck her was the lack of proper understanding of the life in Qatar, “People believed that we still live in the desert and tents,” she says and hence she took it as a challenge and her duty to change perceptions.
“So I took the charge to change the common thought about Qatar and started to talk about the developments of my country to them. Science education and knowledge are the basis of all societies, and thus I made some changes to the original sketch because of the students’ interaction with me and because of my need to reflect on developments in my country,” she says.
“The story of the mural was inspired by my childhood memories and how I was imagining the extent of our urban development in Qatar and America, but when I started working on the painting and saw the extent of students’ interest in it, my basic sketch changed and I was inspired by the educational environment in which I was sitting,” says Muna, “I remembered my father’s past and his journey in life when after his studies in America, he got an offer to work in NASA, but preferred to return to Qatar and was intent on passing on what he learnt to his homeland, to serve it better.”
Mona has also been inspired by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser when she explained that science builds nations and knowledge keeps us in touch with the other world.
“I felt very proud to represent the State of Qatar, especially with the presence of the General Consul HE Mr. Rashid Al-Duhaimi on the day of the mural’s inauguration, as well as my invitation by the ambassador HE Sheikh Meshal bi Hamad Al-Thani from embassy of the state of Qatar in Washington D,C to honour me for the work on the mural.”
All Images Courtesy Muna Al Bader