International Mural Festival Celebrates Colour on Doha Walls

POW! WOW! the international mural festival was held in Doha, hosted for the first time in the MENA region, from 25 November to 1 December. The festival brought 12 local, regional and international artists to add striking artworks to walls around the Al Sadd Metro Station.

Street Art has been prevalent since time immemorial. It has been used by artists, or even citizens to be heard when the need so arose. In a rudimentary state, street art has been used as a proclamation of love by estranged lovers, and even to project hate when the situation so demanded, but mostly it has been used by activists to get their message across to the larger community. Street art, now, is used more as an artistic medium to connect with people and the community, reflecting the sentiments of the artist on a large scale. It is a form of community enrichment through the creation of art.

One such street art festival that is celebrated worldwide is POW! WOW! Which was founded in 2010 by artist, illustrator, curator, and art director, Jasper Wong, in Hong Kong, with the first edition of the week-long mural festival held in Honolulu, Hawaii. The festival has since been exhibited in 17 cities worldwide with the purpose of city beautification and community building.

Participating artists in Doha included Mubarak Al-Malik (Qatar), Huda Basahal (Qatar), Alanoud Al-Ghamdi (Qatar), Myneandyours (Iraq), Bufifty (Kuwait), Rex Chouk (Saudi Arabia), Said Dokins (Mexico), Nardstar* (South Africa), Said Kinos (Netherlands), Max Sansing (USA), Douglas de Castro (Brazil), and Kim Sielbeck (USA).

Saudi pop artist Rex Chouk uses his art as a form of self-expression, “Street Art is slowly growing in the Middle East and the perception is changing and that is happening through various artists all over the region pushing the limits and beautifying their surroundings. Having PowWow in Doha definitely puts Middle East graffiti on a world stage and sparks opportunities for artists to inspire and be inspired. It also gives confidence to businesses and municipalities in our work and what we, graffiti artists, are able to produce.

SCALE spoke to two artists, one local and one regional, to know more about their experiences.

Geometric Shapes for Impact

Alanoud Al-Ghamdi

Alanoud Al-Ghamdi, a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) used her passion for calligraphy in public art pieces that express messages of hope and inspiration. She has used her skills earlier while participating for JEDARIART, using Kufic script, a geometric Arabic style that gained prominence early on as a preferred script for Quran transcription and architectural decoration. She has already created a striking mural at Qatar National Library’s metro station in Education City.

Participating in an international street art festival was an experience that was new for Alanoud. She says, “I got the chance to know 12 amazing artists from around the world with multiple artistic styles, who come from diverse backgrounds.”

“Murals often create interaction as they are accessible for people to enjoy. I use geometric art to evolve people’s preconceptions of the artwork. Since geometric shapes can strongly have a narrative impact,” she says.

At the Al Saad Station she has used a blue geometric style mural that spotlights “Peace”. “Peace is the cornerstone of every nation’s development as it comes along with unity, positive thinking, and collaboration for the common good of all. Blue is a colour that symbolises peace, hence my artwork consists of different shades of blue,” she explains.

The Millennial Arab Touch

Rex Chouk

Rex Chouk is a Saudi pop artist who likes to keep his identity anonymous, he goes by his moniker.  He has created a distinct mask as his armour to keep work separate from his private life that he calls ‘Chouka’ and ‘Choomy’.

He is a self-taught artist who creates art for himself and then loves to see the impact it creates through discussions as he believes in the sublime impact of art.

He was quoted: “I never created art nor understood different styles. My thoughts, style, inspirations, and art ignorance lead me to create organically. I started out in 2015 and a few months later I developed a unique style. The rest is history.”

He strongly advocates the use of public art to portray significant incidents that give an insight into Arab traditions as well.

At the Al Saad Station, Rex has created an artwork titled, Finjali Hour, inspired by Arabian coffee time. “The artwork is an indirect reference to the Qatari culture and how Arabian coffee is a soothing drink that is served at all types of occasions. The subtitle for this artwork says it all: somewhere between a siesta and a fiesta.”

Rex was overwhelmed by the creative atmosphere in Qatar and he is waiting for more opportunities to collaborate and meet more creative people in Doha. “This is my first Pow!Wow! experience and first time in Qatar and it was wonderful! I was nominated by Dhad Store in Jeddah, a family of creatives that I’m a part of. We came in with no expectations and left thinking about the next time we will be back! So much to explore with so many creative people in Doha.”