DOHA: Inside Doha’s spacious M7 building, Qatar’s growing hub for innovation and design, is an exhibition featuring numerous photographic works portraying South Asian migrant workers dressed in a variety of outfits as part of the Doha Fashion Fridays display, captured since 2017 on Instagram by artists Khalid Albaih and Aparna Jayakumar.
The photos — shot on Fridays, their day off — use fashion as a lens to reflect on the unique characters and personal histories of the men.
Doha Fashion Fridays is part of the second edition of the biennial Tasweer Photo Festival Qatar, which first launched in 2021, and runs this year until May 20. The festival, organized by Qatar Museums as part of the year-round national cultural movement Qatar Creates, features photography from the Gulf, wider Middle East, and beyond across several sites and exhibitions.
The “A Chance to Breathe” exhibition features haunting images taken by three Rohingya refugees, Azimul Hasson, Dil Kayas, and Omal Khair. The works on view capture their personal experiences inside Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the largest refugee camp in the world.
Of note is the exhibition “I Am the Traveler and Also the Road,” named after a line taken from “A Ryme for the Odes (Mu’allaqat)” by the late Palestinian poet and author Mahmoud Darwish.
It takes place inside a separate venue at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and features works by the 2021 and 2022 recipients of Tasweer’s Sheikh Saoud Al-Thani Project Award grants.
Staged under the artistic direction of curator Charlotte Cotton, the exhibition presents the poignant works by Tasweer’s 12 grant winners: Qatari Fatema bint Ahmad Al-Doha, Samar Sayed Baiomy from Egypt, Yemeni Hayat Al-Sharif, Shaima Al-Tamimi, Sudanese Salih Basheer, Mohammed Elshamy, Emirati Reem Falaknaz, Palestinian Rula Halawani, Mona Hassan, Fethi Sahraoui from Algeria, and Abdo Shanan.
Through their works, the photographers explore stories of their country and society and the world around them during intense moments of change.
Cotton said the images on show reflected the urgency to better understand personal and collective lived experiences to enhance understanding between different cultures.
“These photographers really capture a certain moment and … are telling specific stories about the region through their practice. The images on view are edgy and groundbreaking and they encourage dialogue about challenging subjects,” she added.
Powerful examples are Al-Doha’s shots of women from the ethnic Kalashi Pakistani tribes that she shot in Pakistan. Her documentary photography focuses on vanishing cultures, remote tribes, minorities, and indigenous peoples.
In her artist’s statement, Al-Doha said: “I photograph an ancient tribe in Pakistan – an ethnic minority and a disappearing culture. The Kalash people consist of just 4,000 members and I want to honor and memorialize the Kalashi rituals and traditions that are vanishing.”
"I'll always be involved in anything that creates space for photography,” Sueraya Shaheen — an Arab photographer and co-founder of Tribe, a non-profit publication and platform focused solely on photography from the Arab world, who sits on the jury of Tasweer’s Sheikh Saoud Al-Thani Project grant told Arab News. “Photography is by far the strongest medium in the region.”
Additionally, the festival has also reactivated two commissioned installations championing Qatar’s heritage that were first presented in 2021 but not widely seen due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
“And Thereafter” at Al-Koot Fort on the edge of Souq Waqif in Doha features an immersive installation by artist Hadeer Omar in collaboration with Sonic Jeel, an art collective that explores hybrid-media.
Meanwhile, “My Mother Lulwa’s House” features work by Qatari artist Mashael Al-Hejazi inside Majlis Barahat Al-Jufairi. Her works reflect the personal and collective memories of the Al-Baraha community in which she grew up.