VCUarts Qatar Alumni Debate on Artivism for Humanity

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) – a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university – recently held a panel discussion titled ‘Artivism for Humanity’ at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Education City.

In one of the most interesting talks on using art to cultivate awareness and to bring attention to a cause or to call out for societal change, the impassioned artists, all alumni from VCUarts Qatar, drew on their work and referenced it to elucidate how art can be used to communicate an imperative message to society.

The panellists were four internationally recognized VCUarts Qatar alumni Ghada Al Khater, Assil Diab, Naima Al Majdobah and Majdulin Nasrallah. The discussion was moderated by Rola Khayyat, a faculty member in VCUarts Qatar’s Painting + Printmaking department. The event was organised by the Alumni Relations wing under the Department of Strategic Engagement at VCUarts Qatar.

Broadly, ‘Artivism’ refers to the use of creative techniques such as visual art, poetry, music, film, and theatre to cultivate awareness and trigger social change. Artivism, the intersection of art and activism, harnesses the critical imagination to design events and strategies that provoke new questions and new meaning in pursuit of more respectful ways of being.

In the insightful discussion at Mathaf, each alumna shared her experience of using various mediums to creatively highlight social and humanitarian issues in an empathetic manner, promoting better understanding of the concern in question. They also presented images of the designs and artwork they created and explained how they developed each project from ideation to production.

The panel discussion was followed by a lively question-and-answer session that saw both the audience and the panellists share their views on the efficacy and impact of Artivism in different parts of the world.

Each of the discussants rose to notoriety following their passionate efforts to highlight headline-grabbing social and political issues affecting communities across the world.

Born in Romania, Assil Diab is a well-known Sudanese graffiti artist, graphic designer and visual artist. Popular as “Sudalove”, she is the first female graffiti artist emerging from Sudan and Qatar. Diab graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2011 in Richmond, Virginia, US, with a BFA in Graphic Design. In 2021 she received VCU’s 10 Under 10 Award. In 2020 she won a dissemination award from UNESCO for a self-initiated street art campaign she did on the coronavirus in Sudan. She has also been an honorary cultural Ambassador to Qatar Museums since 2018 till present day. One of Diab’s most acclaimed work is her recent project, “Martyrs Graffiti” in Sudan. She travelled to Sudan during the Sudanese revolution, where she painted at least 30 martyrs on the walls of their respective homes to pay tribute to their martyrdom. She spoke about the impact her art made to those around her and also was an emotional moment for the families to see their martyred sons being honoured.

Ghada Al Khater is a Qatari multidisciplinary artist who combines art, politics and social matters in cartoons, illustrations, and sculptures. Her work tackles satirical socio/political commentaries on GCC matters and other relevant international affairs. Her works are a creative outlet that aims to shed light on the complex issues of the Middle East, as experienced by a Middle Easterner living in the heart of it. Some of her renowned works include “Jardin de Lumiere ”and “A blessing in Disguise” (public installation), which have gained recognition and appreciation. Al Khater has constantly found ways to push the boundaries of conventional art pedagogy into a new field of ‘Artooning’.

Majdulin Nasrallah is an Interdisciplinary designer holding a Master of Fine Arts in Design Studies and a BFA in Interior Design from VCUarts Qatar. She weaves threads of memory, identity, and belonging into her work through various means and mediums that include paintings, textiles, sculptures, and large-scale installations. Nasrallah’s work, both poetic and political, explores the relationship between the human experience and the built environment on both a personal and universal scale. Her work has been exhibited Internationally at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Canada (2022), Manege Central Exhibition Hall, St. Petersburg, Russia (2018), the Anderson Gallery, Richmond, Virginia (2018), Kraftwerk, Berlin, Germany (2017).

Naima Al Majdobah is a designer holding an Honors BFA in Graphic Design and is currently studying in the MFA in Design program at VCUarts Qatar. Her exploration and interests revolve around the harmonious fusion of culture and innovation. In addition to such research, Al Majdobah is driven by a mission to bridge the past and present through her creative work. She combined her passion for sonic explorations with visual design in her well-known project “Stitch by Stitch”. She has left a mark on the global design landscape, participating in many of the world’s most prestigious exhibitions and festivals such as Bangkok Design Week, ARS Electronica, Festival X, and many more.

She said that taking her work out of Doha and participating in international events gave a voice to the Palestinian cause which her work constantly referenced, reminding the world that the lives of Palestinians is culturally rich and vibrant, touching on the humanity factor and in her own way calling out for peace, reminding the world of the humanity that is being lost in pursuit of worldly gains and power play.