Mal Lawal in Qatar
Al Riwaq exhibition takes us inside the private collections of Qataris Discuss this article
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The Qatar Museum Authority is opening up Qatar’s attics, riffling through Doha’s keepsakes, and pillaging items from under the countries beds. Starting this month, Mal Lawal, the latest exhibition at Al Riwaq Doha Exhibition Space, brings the art and objects passed down between generations to the public.
‘Mal Lawal is the first exhibition of its kind organized by Qatar Museums Authority. Mal Lawal literally means “of the past” and the exhibition combines collections in Qatar with works of art by contemporary Qatari artists. The various objects in the collections are of historical, sentimental or cultural value and the works of art are by three generations of contemporary Qatari artists,’ says Faisal Al Hitmi, Deputy Director of National Museum of Qatar, who’s also in charge of the show. ‘The Mal Lawal exhibition for objects and pieces is a journey through history, time, and culture. It allows visitors to explore the past and the present and develop a vision of the future. This exhibition aims to influence people by bringing back their memories of the old days, and making them proud of their roots and the rich cultural diversity present here in Qatar.’
Last spring, Mal Lawal invited community members to share the items and pieces of art that they hold dear. The result? A collection of ancient artifacts, contemporary treasures, Qatari art and trinkets all sorts on display for the first time.
‘There are some very significant and famous private collections in Doha and there are some collectors who have never had the opportunity to showcase what they have been collecting over the years. Mal Lawal represents an excellent opportunity to begin to engage these collectors and encourage them to exhibit what they have in public,’ says Al Hitmi.
Divided into two parts, Mal Lawal includes the collection of objects from the community, as well as items focusing on Qatar’s Contemporary arts scene. Local artists are contributing a variety of pieces, allowing visitors to experience the full richness of the arts scene in Doha.
‘People will be impressed by the variety of objects they will see at the exhibition. It will also be interested to see the latest works of art by contemporary Qatari artists and examine the different themes in the works of three generations of Qatari artists,’ says Al Hitmi. ‘It is important to involve the community with the activities of Qatar Museums Authority and we have been always been reaching out to the community through education programs and events. It is perhaps a good time now for QMA to start to invite the community to participate with their objects in an exhibition that we can all benefit from. They are not all art. Some objects are of sentimental value to the owner.’
This is the first time the Museum Authority has attempted such a community-driven exhibition. Al Hitmi is hopeful it will prove to be as bit a hit as Al Riwaq’s first show, Murakami EGO, which featured art by famed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
‘It’s difficult to predict how the public will respond since this is the first time QMA endeavors on a project like this. But we believe it will be a successful exhibition because we are confident that initiatives that include participation of various community members will no doubt attract significant and diverse audiences. We want each of our visitors to learn something new about collections in Qatar and perhaps an anecdote from Qatari heritage,’ he says.
It’s a far cry from the neon, pop art flowers and cartoon characters of the Murakami exhibition, but staffers agree it’s equally as interesting.
‘This exhibition helps us to discover the aesthetics of what has been achieved by previous generations, and to understand what is being created by present ones,’ says Hala Al Khalifa, Education Manager at the Qatar Museums Authority. ‘Mal Lawal builds a bridge between past and present, showcasing the sustainable artistic and creative heritage of people in Qatar. What is extraordinary about this exhibition is that every object tells a tale – there is a hidden narrative in everything on display. Where did these objects come from, who made them, how did they come to be in Qatar today? Similarly, the paintings tell another kind of story, one of visual expression. Why were these works of art created? What creative forces drove the development of these works that we see before us today?”
Mal Lawal runs Sept 12 to Oct 11 at the Al Riwaq Doha Exhibition Space on the Museum of Islamic Arts grounds. Entrance is free. Open Sat-Mon, Wed-Thurs 10.30am-5.30pm; Fri 2pm-8pm.For more information, see www.qma.org.qa.
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