Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) invited us to Qatar for a Crossing Boundaries lecture in 2019. VCUarts Qatar is the Qatar campus of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Established in 1998 they offer students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fashion design, graphic design, interior design and painting & printmaking, a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history and a Master of Fine Arts degree in design.
Each year they host a lecture series intended to reflect diversity of their art and design curricula, as well as highlight the excellence in the field of art, design and creative thinking of invited speakers. They invited us for a lecture and series of workshops about the development of local design from across all disciplines and production capacity through creative processes.
Ghadeer Dajani (design and production manager at DDFP), and Raed Hamouri, (project manager at DDFP), talked about the effect of occupation on local design, how it restricts craft and product development, where politics, design and crafts meet, and how design knowledge and skills can be supported within the Palestinian community through knowledge exchange. They questioned how designers can be empowered to more actively engage in society through collective design-thinking courses and social design impact. How can art and design be deployed as powerful tools triggering dialogue within a community? And how can creative practices contribute to a more sustainable society and human-centered economy?
In addition they gave a series of workshops that were open to the general public, and to Education City faculty and alumni. At the workshops, participants imagined new products based on techniques of items that each of them brought to the class. They focussed on their product’s narratives. What are the complexities? Is there a political dimension behind the product, its production and distribution? What does it mean from a social and ecological perspective?
Half a decade before the Covid-19 pandemic، Gaza-born artist Mohammed Musallam created a face mask based on the traditional keffiyeh textile. The conceptual artwork could be seen both as an expression of Palestinian identity and as a means of protection; caring for identity is as important as protecting health itself. It was first used in Gazan hospitals under the Israeli occupation’s siege. Impossible at that time to foresee the impact of Covid-19; this face mask shows the power of artistic imagination. The artwork did not lose any of its meaning; just the contrary.
Gaza’s potentially disastrous combination of widespread impoverishment, densely-packed refugee camps and extremely limited hospital capacity make us even more aware of the catastrophic impact of the Israeli occupation and how fragile life can be. Caring for each other is more important than ever.
Under Musallam’s supervision, the new masks were produced in Gaza City by tailor Abu Alaa Ghaben; to be worn for your safety and as an act of solidarity.
Mohammed Musallam was born in Gaza in 1974 after his family had been dislocated from the historic Palestine as a consequent of the 1948 war. He holds a PhD in philosophy of Fine Arts, Painting Department, Fine Arts College, Minia University, Egypt. He currently resides in Gaza and works there as a lecturer of “Painting and the History of Palestinian Arts” at the College of Arts, Al Aqsa University. From his first steps as a university student he became greatly influenced by the abstract art processes and approaches. In his Art, he focuses on portraying a range of humanistic issues, which go beyond the limitations imposed by any prevailing time-related matters, which may be oppressive and persistent simultaneously. At the same time, he concentrates on conveying the notion of the preservation of our humaneness amid the harshness of our environment as one of the most important reasons for our existence.