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Story | Education
24 November 2019

QF’s Art Trail explores the relationship between art and Arab identity


Arab Identities exhibition focuses on the interplay between identity and film

Questions of identity – what signifies it, the importance of empathy in enabling people to understand or interpret it, and whether images in film influence how we see our own identity and that of others – are being posed by the Arab Identities exhibition at Education City.

The exhibition at Northwestern University in Qatar’s Media Majlis – one of the venues for the latest edition of Qatar Foundation’s Art Trail series of tours – creates a context in which visitors can explore their own understanding of identity, while considering how images in film have shaped, and been shaped by, notions of Arab identity.

Pamela Erskine-Loftus, Director of the Media Majlis – the first museum in the Arab world dedicated to the content of media, journalism, and communication – said: “The exhibition discusses the impact of film on how we understand our identity and that of other people, particularly in the Arab world.”

“It is very informative to people who may not know a lot about Arab cinema as a whole. For visitors who are familiar with Arab cinema, it gives them information on existing Arabic film. We have films from Qatar, the wider region, and internationally. and so it allows all visitors, whatever their knowledge, to ask questions and discuss these topics with their friends and family.

“Having a university museum is important for students, faculty and researchers, and the general public as well. It gives our students and other people a different format for learning, something permanent which is different from sitting in a classroom.”

Through interactive screens, visitors were able to watch Arabic films and discuss questions about cinema and its impact on the knowledge, attitudes, and values surrounding Arab identity. Film clips, publicity material, and original cinema posters for more than 150 films are featured in the exhibition, which spans more than a century of global filmmaking.

“We don't refer to artworks as objects only,” said Qatar Foundation art specialist Layla Bacha. “The arts are found in many artistic mediums and are presented in different ways,”

"Through this exhibition, visitors are able to identify different Arab identities through films in an interactive way. It reveals a specific type of art, which expresses the media age, has power and influence, and is a means of expression. Although the issue of portraying Arab identity is not widely circulated, it is extremely important.”

Hussein Shehab, one of the Art Trail visitors, said: “Cinematography is a well-documented tool and has a significant role to play in promoting the artistic culture of individuals. And this exhibition exposes you to films that present a variety of Arab identities.

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"Films help us to identify new cultures, or the history of other Arab countries. Personally, I enjoy watching historical films that reflect earlier epochs,” Shehab added “Although the tools of the past may have been simple, through the films we can transfer these images to future generations – old films have great impact because they reflect culture and reality.”

After the tour of the main exhibition space, Art Trail participants had the opportunity to see virtual reality works within Northwestern University in Qatar's Media Innovation Lab.

Art Trail is a regular series of tours that showcase art across Education City, with the aim of inspiring cultural appreciation and creativity among Qatar’s community. The next tour will take place at Georgetown University in Qatar on November 30.

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