On the Move Gives an Insight into Nomadic Lives

On the Move, an exhibition that tries to throw light on the rich and meaningful nomadic lives, producing complex and beautiful cultural forms in challenging environments, is designed to deepen understanding between nations and their people and to change perspectives on nomads. The exhibition is ongoing at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) until January 14, 2023.

Gallery on (mis)perceptions and (mis)representations

The different style of tents, the technology involved in their making, their transportation, and the different animals involved in the process of moving, and the small but progressively advanced technologies involved in the Bedouin culture is brought to stark life at, On the Move, at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ). Featuring a diverse selection of more than 400 objects – including paintings, historical images, oral historical, archival footage, and contemporary photography — On the Move explores how these groups created and maintained rich and meaningful social lives. Artefacts on display are drawn from the collections of NMOQ, Lusail Museum, Qatar National Library and Qatar Museums, along with loan items from international museums including the National Museum of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar., Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, and Weltmuseum Wein in Vienna, among other institutions.

Sarjoun Faour – Qatar Museums

The exhibition explores the lives of nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists across three distinct regions: Central Sahara, Qatar, and Mongolia. But more importantly, the exhibition tries to dispel stereotypes perpetuated by mass media and advertising, of these nomadic pastoralists who are typecast as either heroic or fear-provoking due to their fiercely independent close to nature lifestyles. What is missed in the media hype that is brought to life at the exhibition is that these nomads are as much humans as any of us though they live that might be more challenging than ours.

Sarjoun Faour – Qatar Museums

Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, in the company of several dignitaries, opened, On the Move.

Sarjoun Faour – Qatar Museums

On the Move is one of more than ten exhibitions presented as part of Qatar Creates, the year-round national cultural movement that curates, promotes, and celebrates the diversity of cultural activities in Qatar and connects resident and global audiences with Qatar’s creative industries. The exhibition also forms part of the Qatar-MENASA Year of Culture 2022, an international cultural exchange designed to deepen understanding between nations and their people. As such, the exhibition reflects the creative power and heritage of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia (MENASA).

Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa, said: “The exhibition provides visitors with a window to our past as we learn from our ancestors’ wisdom to build a brighter future. We are proud of our Bedouin nomadic culture and here is a moment to experience this.”

Commenting on the occasion, Sheikha Amna Bint Abdull Aziz Al Thani, Acting Deputy CEO of Museums, Collections & Heritage Protection and Director of NMoQ, said: “Since its opening in 2019, the National Museum of Qatar has served as a cultural platform that raises awareness of the history and environments that nomads lived in, as well as the contemporary aspects of living nomadically. We look forward to welcoming the wider community to the flagship exhibition of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 for a culturally enriching experience.”

Examples of the tents used.

On the Move begins with an introduction of the complex histories and cultures of nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists from three different regions in the world: Qatar, Central Sahara and Mongolia Themes explored in the exhibition include: (mis) perceptions and (mis) representations; living spaces and dwellings;  Pastoralists’ relationships with animals and with the environment; the groups rich social, cultural and spiritual lives; historical ruptures; and the influence of nomadic living in arts and culture today.

A gallery on the (mis)perceptions and (mis)representations explores how mass media, art and literature, and academia have played a role in perpetuating stereotypes about nomadic communities. On view are films, such as Lawrence of Arabia (UK, 1962), Orientalist paintings and photographs. Contemporary photography of and by the pastoralists is juxtaposed with stereotypical depictions, inviting visitors to question and change their perspectives.

The next gallery highlights the pastoralists’ living spaces and dwellings. Designed to be easily assembled and taken down and transported, these dwellings require advance knowledge of construction techniques, as well as an understanding of the surrounding environment to select the best place to build. The gallery features décor from these living spaces, and explores the functions of interior spaces, such as hosting guests. Especially interesting are the interactive games designed to entertain and educate.

Sarjoun Faour – Qatar Museums

“The pastoralists’ relationships to their animals are also examined. Although many animals provide essential nutrition to these groups, that is not always their sole purpose. Sheep and goats are most closely associated with pastoralists, providing a main source of nutrition as well as leather and wool. Camels are considered precious and are connected to social prestige as well as transportation. In some cultures, horses are both vital to mobility and herding and represent community legacy and heritage. Falcons and eagles are used for hunting and represent high social standing. For some groups, dogs and donkeys are highly respected,” reveals Tania Al-Majid, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs, who has been at the National Museum of Qatar for the past 11 years, where she developed content and co-curated the NMoQ’s permanent galleries concerning ethnography and social history.

Tania Al-Majid, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs

The pastoralists’ rich cultural, social and spiritual lives are explored in the next section of the exhibition. All three regions have profound oral traditions, which this section explores with the narration of three stories. Textiles are highlighted, both as a necessity and as form of expressing social values, customs and traditions. The gallery also highlights celebratory gatherings and different traditions for hospitality.

The varieties of tents; the Mongolian Ger and the Saharan tent.

The exhibition concludes with pastoralists’ development over time, highlighting contemporary changes to lifestyle and transportation. It also examines how the lifestyles, ideas, innovation and creativity of nomadic pastoralists have been a continuous source of inspiration for other people and cultures. The final gallery examines influences in arts and culture today, from music to fashion and architecture.