Maryam Al Muftah’s final year project at VCUarts Qatar aims to motivate children to partake in the country’s future
Through the launch of Qatar National Vision 2030, Maryam Nasser Sultan Al Muftah – a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, a Qatar Foundation partner university – realized the power of contribution that each citizen can make in the role of developing their country.
This realization inspired her to work on a mega project that could help children – the leaders of tomorrow – to not only understand the key pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030 through art and design, but also to envision what they can do to serve the country in the future.
“Our nation has a great vision,” says Al Muftah, “yet I have noticed that kids and teenagers don't always understand what it is exactly about. As a designer and an artist, I felt that the language, iconography, symbols, and signs relevant to our country’s vision are not easily understandable to kids. This is when I was inspired to dedicate my project to this important group of society.”
Al Muftah’s project looked at creating a version of Qatar National Vision 2030 for children that consists of four sub-projects under a brand she developed called Imagine. Why the name ‘Imagine’? Because she believes it is the starting point of everything.
The brand was developed based on three principles: sustainability, cultural conservation, and future visions
“The brand was developed based on three principles: sustainability, cultural conservation, and future visions,” she said. “Sustainability is represented in green and blue colors, which reflect Qatar’s sustainable practices and the growth of its nation; while cultural conservation is represented in maroon, reflecting the pride of Qatar. And future visions is in brown, resembling the sands of time, much like the sands of Qatar.”
Al Muftah chose a dugong as the brand character, as dugongs have been known to inhabit Qatari waters for several decades.
For the human development pillar, Al Muftah created a doll kit called Dream. The kit contains a grey-colored ragdoll – grey to break skin color stereotypes – along with markers and papers, instructions, and card for quotes. The Dream kit allows children to create their own designs on the doll, where the doll could have any goal or aspiration.
I chose children as an audience for my thesis research about our country’s vision. I want to inspire them to imagine what they can achieve nine years from now
The second project, Grow, is a plant kit which helps children understand the value of their environment and surroundings. It helps them in grasping what sustainability means by teaching them how to grow a plant and take care of it. The kit consists of a pot that can be decorated with paints, and comes with a bag of soil, shovel, and mystery seeds – the seeds could be of tomatoes, fava beans, or sunflower. It also contains a card that includes a quote about environmental sustainability, and a diary for the child to write what he or she observes and feels towards their plant.
The third project, Preserve, is a playing cards game for all ages, and is linked to the social development pillar. The game's objective is to match cards of animals, plants, or historical places in Qatar with its correct name. This game aims to help children discover Qatar’s culture and heritage.
The fourth project is a child-friendly book that explains Qatar National Vision 2030 in a simplified manner. The book aims to help children understand the main pillars of Qatar’s vision by way of storytelling through the dugong – the brand character – who explains that there is a life similar to that of humans in the ocean, and that we need to take care of each other to co-exist on our shared planet.
I consider Qatar’s vision an inspiration for social change that brings solutions for future challenges
“I believe that art and design unite people; it creates a sense of ownership within the community,” says Al Muftah. “As a designer and an advocate of Qatar National Vision 2030, who is wishing to lead next generations of artists within the context of this vision, I chose children as an audience for my thesis research about our country’s vision. I want to inspire them to imagine what they can achieve nine years from now.
“I consider Qatar’s vision an inspiration for social change that brings solutions for future challenges. And studying design has given me the stage to create ideas, tap into the future, and inspire others to join the vision through art and creativity.”
Al Muftah found her interest in art at a very young age. Her parents discovered her painting the walls of their living room in maroon nail polish. And, to her surprise, she wasn’t punished. On the contrary, her parents encouraged her to continue.
It was a big splash of color on the wall right in front of the main door. I wanted to enliven the boring wall. And since then, my parents knew I had a special interest in art
“It was a big splash of color on the wall right in front of the main door,” she said. “I wanted to enliven the boring wall. And since then, my parents knew I had a special interest in art, and they have provided me with endless support and belief. For that, I attribute everything I am today to them.”
After an unusual journey of physical, remote and blended learning modes, Al Muftah expressed her heartfelt gratitude to VCUarts Qatar, which she calls her “second home”, and especially to her professors and instructors.
“Despite passing through tough times since the outbreak of the pandemic that affected my mental wellbeing, I have attended innovative classes remotely, and received immense support from my instructors, which significantly improved my knowledge and skills in many ways,” she says.
“I have made drastic improvements in time management, critical thinking, developing new ideas, and diligence at work. For this, I will always be grateful and proud to be a VCUarts Qatar alumna.”