Hey’Ya: Arab women in sport

Broader horizons for female athletes

This public art project celebrated the strength and pride of female athletes from the Arab world. It was held at QM Gallery, Katara. It featured large-scale photos by Brigitte Lacombe and documentary films by Marian Lacombe.

It presented an often concealed perspective of Arab women competing in sport in a contemporary, forward-thinking way. Alongside the exhibition, we held a conference to amplify the debate around gender and sport in the Arab world.

‘Hey’Ya’ is Arabic for ‘Let’s Go’ and this title, coupled with the vibrant images, reflected the athletes’ energy and enthusiasm. The exhibition was first presented at Sotheby’s in London during the Olympic Games 2012 and also travelled to the National Football Museum in Manchester, as part of Qatar-UK 2013.

Girl power

As well as the exhibition itself, we arranged community activities to encourage an active interest in sport, especially among young Qatari women. We invited them to get involved, whether to compete and win, or to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Thirty one Qatari girls appeared in photographs. They are as varied as the country itself, practicing different sports that range from swimming to shooting. In one exhibition video, 14-year-old Maryam Al Boinin – an equestrian athlete – highlighted the continually increasing participation of women in sports.

Seven months in the planning

The project, shot over a period of seven months, began back in December 2011 in the Athletes Village at the Arab Games in Doha, where Brigitte and Marian Lacombe set up an outdoor studio.

Afterwards they travelled to the Gulf and North Africa, working with female athletes of all ages and levels of achievement. With the support of Qatar’s Aspire programme, which promotes sporting opportunities for young people, they also worked with a younger generation of sporting hopefuls.

Now Qatar is different than before. There are lots of opportunities for girls. What boys can do, girls can do
Maryam Al Boinin, a Qatari equestrian athlete featured in the exhibition
Sport has taught me a lot… love for people, respect, discipline, cooperation, and friendship
Dana Hussein Abdul-Razzaq, an Iraqi runner featured in the exhibition
Occidental Petroleum of Qatar Limited, Principal sponsor of Hey' Ya exhibition
Principal sponsor of Hey' Ya exhibition

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