Posted on March 20, 2019

Tasmeem Doha 2019, the international art and design conference, which was hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) in Education City, concluded on March 15 after three days of exciting workshops, talks, exhibitions by renowned artists and designers from the region and around the world.

The university’s campus was transformed into a mini design district with creative, quirky and impressive installations and artsy kiosks all around the central foyer. The entrance was characterized by a striking display of colorful ribbons with colors transitioning from orange to purple through which attendees passed as they entered the university. The theme of the conference was “Hekayat” (stories) and it was co-chaired by four VCUarts Qatar alumni: Hadeer Omar, Noha Fouad, Wajiha Pervez, and Yasmeen Suleiman. The event attracted people of all ages from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and interests.

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Dr. Donald Baker, VCUarts Qatar’s Executive Dean, said, “Tasmeem Doha strikes me as a unique and very effective way to bring students and faculty members together around common interests and concerns, providing a shared body of ideas, observations, and experiences to fuel ongoing dialogue.” Tasmeem Doha featured speakers such as Ahmed Alrefaie, an illustrator and graphic designer from Kuwait; and Rana Beiruti, director and co-founder of Amman Design Week. The opening keynote speaker was Sir David Adjaye, OBE, the Founder and Principal of Adjaye Associates. An architect with an artist’s sensibility, his largest project to date is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Attendees had the opportunity to meet and engage with the speakers of their choice in Tasmeem Doha event called the “Swalif Sessions”, wherein the speakers gavemore detailed insights into their respective fields to a smaller and more concentrated audience. Tehran-based artist Ali Phi’s exhibition “QAL, the anti-carpet”, the key elements of which were Persian carpets and Persian gardens, and his audio-visual performance of “Elemaun”, combined stunning visuals inspired by Persian motifs with rhythmic electronic beats sampling the ritual and regional music of Iran.

Workshops during Tasmeem Doha included everything from Palestinian Embroidery and architectural imagery and typography, to a workshop incorporating cooking and woodworking, as well as sculpting, virtual reality, calligraphy, coding, and T-Shirt design by the likes of Gary Webb, Samer Fouad, Armor Gutiérrez Rivas and 2015/16 VCUarts Qatar Artist-in-Residence Nastassja Swift, and by students from VCUarts Qatar and the university’s home campus.

Graphic design students performed live loops of their works during “Sonic Jeel” (sonic generation) to great acclaim. “Sonic Jeel” wasa design course and pseudo record labelexploring systems of sound using small portable synthesizers and sampling. Workshop 3 at the Fire Station hosted the “-162°CTrading Power” exhibition, which is also part of Tasmeem Doha. The exhibition, which will run until March 22, uses 40 floating printers that source relevant text and images from the internet, and is a collaboration between faculty and students from VCUarts Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, and Tokyo Metropolitan University’s Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology.

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Viewers of Hollywood blockbuster movie “The Black Panther” would have been familiar with the designs of Julia Koerner, who was the keynote speaker on the final day of Tasmeem Doha. During her speech to a full house at the university’s Atrium, she shared details and experiences of how she designed some of her incredible wearable designs which were achieved through 3D-printing, and also regaled the audience with memories of her exciting collaborations for haute couture and costumes for the movie, as well as other projects with the likes of Swarovski. “My experience at Tasmeem was absolutely fantastic. I am really impressed that this event was organized by four young women to begin with. I met a lot of different people including faculty and students and all of this just shows a sort of openness to innovation in this region,” Koerner said.

Dean Donald N. Baker gave a heart-warming concluding speech when he expressed his gratitude to the four co-chairs and everyone else involved in making TasmeemDoha 2019 a massive success. “Organized by young people who know our programs and what students and others would like to hear and discuss, it has been unfailingly attractive to our students, alumni and members of the arts community in Qatar. I have personally enjoyed hearing and meeting the speakers,” he said.

Tasmeem Doha co-chair Hadeer Omar added, “It was such an amazing process over the last year-and-a-half. We were the first graduates to take on such a thing. It was an experience and a challenge at the same time. Our first little victory was when our proposal was accepted and that was a huge milestone for us. We are incredibly proud of how far we’ve come and there are so many people who have supported us in this process.”