The Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture, a partnership between Qatar Museums (QM), the United States Embassy in Doha and the Embassy of Qatar in the United States, has announced that “female empowerment” will be an important component of the exhibitions, festivals, bilateral exchanges and events to be held in both the US and Qatar during 2021.

The Year of Culture concept was established by Qatar Museums in 2012 under the patronage of its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The Years of Culture initiatives work to highlight and strengthen ties between Qatar and a new partner nation each year. All past, present, and future exhibitions, programs, and events are featured on the official Years of Culture website, where traveling art lovers and arm chair travelers who love art alike can find the latest information and details about upcoming events.

For those unfamiliar with the Qatari art scene, the program offers the opportunity to delve into a world of artists who, like their US counterparts, are dealing with issues of women’s empowerment, representation and self-generated storytelling through painting, photography, fashion, film, street art and more.

In Qatar, some of the programs will include a live, virtual discussion on International Women’s Day on March 8 with prominent Qatari and American artists discussing the topic of female empowerment In the US, programs include a multi-city installation of street art, “Calli-graffiti” that blends calligraphy and the Arabic language as inspired by the French-Tunisian artist eL Seed. The tour begins in April in Jersey City and continues to other US destinations including Miami Beach during Art Basel. Other programs include “Pearls of Wonder,” a pop-up exhibition featuring Qatari artists inspired by the Qatari pearl industry, set to open in New York City, and a Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art on textiles from the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art.

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Art lovers who want to delve into the issue of female empowerment while discovering Qatari artists (specifically female ones) can find a wealth of information online about them.

One artist in particular, Muna Al-Bader, stands out as a vibrant and very visible example of a woman artist courageously exploring her world and her traditions through a particular lens–the lens of the color blue.

Muna Al-Bader has been a working artist and a well-known personality in Qatar for the past 14 years. She was recently selected as Qatar’s art ambassador in the UNESCO ResiliArt Talk program. She is also known to travelers to Qatar as a collaborative artists working with hotels such as the Sheraton and the Salwa Resort. She has won awards such as the Fifth Sense Festival prize in 2010, Katara Dhow Festival Prize in 2018 and the Red Bull Dhow Art Prize in 2018.

She has also participated in various art festivals such as Doha 360 Murals in 2018, the Gulf Literature Festival in 2016, Qatar Modern Art Festival in 2015, Qatar Fine Art in 2013, and the Circles Exhibition in 2019. Her art is found in the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum and in galleries and private collections around the world.

Muna explains her current focus on the color blue as the sole pigment in her paint box by saying, “Blue is known as a color representing happiness and vivacity. Apart from that, this hue is a symbol of power and honesty. The reason why blue indicates dynamism is that this shade has absorbed energy from all the sources of power around us, such as the sky, the sea, and the air. Blue flowers are the prettiest to me, and people with blue eyes seem to know some secret that one can learn only by being clever enough.”

The artist, who is “fascinated by Qatari folklore,” has been creating blue hued canvases that include its songs and dances with “brushstrokes that reflect the movements of the body, allowing the viewers to feel the dance and hear the song.”

Dr. Heather E. Dunn, artist/writer/philosopher with a specialty in women’s art and street art says that “Al-Bader’s traditional/non-traditional blue paintings give hope during the current situation of a global pandemic as well as inspire other Middle Eastern women to pursue their life’s passion.”

Paintings from Al-Bader’s blue period as well as others can be found on her page on the website, Artsy. Al-Bader’s savvy extends from the discipline of art to the art of marketing, especially online where the artist sees her audience expanding and her ability to connect as more direct.

In an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine’s James Jorner, Al-Bader said “By building an audience online, I was able to cut out the middleman and go straight to the customer. Hashtags became my biggest generator for traffic and I can directly link them to an increase in my online sales.”

Both the Qatar Year of Culture and artists like Muna Al-Bader’s social outreach are priming travelers’ canvases for a journey into a new, wild “blue” yonder.

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