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Through Her Eyes: Conversations with Artists

23 January 2024

Interviews by Hissa Al-Hitmi and Mohammed Al-Thani

Qatar Museums’ vibrant public art programmes have given artists across the country, and the region, the opportunity to express their visions both on the canvas and the street. We spoke to three remarkable muralists, each weaving their unique stories and creative visions into the cultural landscape.

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Artists Fatima Alsharshani, Huda Basahal and Nada Khozestani share a deep appreciation for the impact of their art on society. They believe that art has the power to shape cultures and foster a deeper understanding of humanity. Their works evoke emotions, provoke thoughts and inspire others to embark on their own creative journeys. Whether through murals or calligraphy, their art serves as a bridge, connecting hearts and minds through the captivating beauty of words and culture.

Each of the artists has created murals as part of Qatar Museums’ Jedariart programme. Works by these artists can be seen across various spaces in Doha, such as Fire Station and Post Office Park. We spoke to them about their inspirations, what drives them and what their futures might hold.

Q. How did you decide to become an artist?

Nada Khozestani: Becoming an artist was never a conscious decision; rather, it was a natural evolution that has been woven into the fabric of my life from an early age. As far back as I can remember, I've been captivated by the world of visual expression, drawn to the magic of transforming blank canvases into vivid interpretations of imagination.

Fatima Alsharshani: I don't think there was a specific moment that made me make the decision. It started as a hobby, and I refined this hobby by self-teaching, learning, researching and attending educational workshops. The journey then began. I also firmly believe that I did not choose art, but art chose me.

Huda Basahal: Since I was a child my favourite hobby has been fine art and doing all kinds of handicrafts. I always dreamed of becoming an art teacher so I could live my hobby. From my childhood, I kept exploring all kinds of arts. I then decided to study art education to achieve my dream so I did, alhamdulillah, and became an art teacher for 10 years.

Art became a sanctuary, a place where I could explore the depths of my own creativity and unlock new dimensions of self-expression.

– Nada Khozestani

Q. Did you face any social obstacles in your pursuit of art as a career?

Basahal: Maybe a little bit in the past but not anymore. I come from a family who values our culture and religious rules so joining at a young age was my only obstacle. Later on, my parents accepted my art as long as I respected my culture.

Khozestani: In my journey towards pursuing art as a career, I've been fortunate to have a strong support system in my family. Art, while a deeply fulfilling and enriching pursuit, can sometimes be met with certain societal expectations or misconceptions. However, my family’s belief in my passion for art provided me with a solid foundation of encouragement.

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Nada Khozestani, Ladies in Batoola, Fire Station © Qatar Museums 2020

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Huda Basahal, Be Like a Fish, Fire Station © Qatar Museums 2020

A mural depicting a roundel golden circle with the inclusion of Arabic calligraphy taken from the poetry of Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani, found

Fatima Al-Sharshani, Roundel Golden Circle with Arabic Calligraphy, Post Office Park © Qatar Museums 2020

Q. Could you tell us a little about your work? What is your source of inspiration?

Khozestani: My work is a fusion of abstraction and the vibrant essence of women in Arabian culture. Through the interplay of colours, forms and textures, I seek to convey the essence of our women, offering viewers a unique perspective on the depth and diversity of our cultural heritage. The batoola (traditional face covering), as a symbol of cultural identity and individual expression, serves as a powerful muse for me.

Alsharshani: I am a calligrapher doing classic and modern calligraphy, and I also incorporate graffiti in my art. All great work starts with planning. If the idea or theme comes to me, I sketch it immediately – sometimes, the best ideas come from chaos. The words themselves inspire me to create, whether it’s from the Holy Qur’an, poetry or any other medium.

Basahal: I enjoy exploring our Qatari culture in different ways; usually blending in the Korean art style ‘simplicity’. Therefore, my works are a mix of simplicity and fantasy – doing it in a dreamy way that makes the viewer surf with their thoughts.

A mural expresses historical and cultural identity and is like a free museum open for everyone and accessible at all times.

– Fatima Alsharhsani

Q. What do you enjoy most about painting murals?

Basahal: Painting takes me into a different world. The great thing about murals is it doesn’t keep you stuck in one place like other kinds of art, it makes you move around, and freely like a bird.

Khozestani: Through my art, I aim to evoke emotions, provoke thoughts and perhaps even inspire others to embark on their own creative journeys. It's a privilege to share a piece of my world with others, to offer a glimpse into the realm where colours breathe and forms come alive.

Alsharshani: It expresses historical and cultural identity and is like a free museum open for everyone and accessible at all times. To simplify the answer, it's words. I find it the most attractive concept of expression. I love Qur’anic texts and poetry.

Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Basahal: I hope to get more known as a mural artist in Qatar and internationally, and to spread my art murals in other countries.

Alsharshani: I am proud of my country and I am extremely grateful for the platforms available here – I would like to take my art and be known as a Qatari international artist.

Q. Do you think the art we create impacts our society?

Khozestani: I think art certainly impacts our society. I see art to be a reflection of our society and it can guide people to the beauty in the world we’re living in.

Alsharshani: Art plays an important role in society, it shapes cultures and builds a better understanding of mankind and humanity. The words themselves inspire me to create, whether it’s from the Qur’an poetry or any other medium. For my artwork, I like to take an observer to a new world, and I like to keep my messages open-ended as if the observer himself can imagine what the message can be.

Editor’s note: These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Hissa Al-Hitmi and Mohammed Al-Thani are Digital Editorial Coordinators at Qatar Museums.