Artists from The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London recently held workshops in Katara Cultural Village where they’re giving people the chance to create their own work of art, based on traditional Islamic geometric patterns and on freehand decorative styling.
The workshops are were delivered by Richard Henry and Nooshin Shafiei. ArtsQatar caught up with Richard at the end of one of the workshops in order to ask him a few questions.
artsQatar: What brings you to Qatar?
Richard Henry: My specialism is geometric traditional art, having been interested in technical drawing since I was a child, and I’m currently involved in the outreach programme of The Prince’s School of Traditional Art, which has brought me to Doha for what is now my third visit.
Initially the workshops that took place outside of London were across the UK, but increasingly they’ve become international, taking place in such locations as Cairo, Jamaica, China… and Qatar.
We’re still in the early stages of building our relationship with Qatar – so far it’s been holding public workshops here, over a two-week period – but I hope we can develop that further.
In Baku, Azerbaijan, for instance, we’ve recently set up a school where people can study at degree level. I definitely think there’s scope for development here. It’d be nice to run some longer-term programmes and to exhibit some of the work that’s produced during the workshops.
aQ:Who’s been turning up?
RH: We’ve had a real mixture of people taking part: from families to individuals, from expats to a group of Qatari women from Al Khor. We don’t know who we’re going to get when we arrive at the start of each fortnight.
This is our third time coming here to hold the workshops, and we’ve noticed that people tend to find out about us by word of mouth. What tends to happen is that at the start of the workshops it’s very quiet, but by the end of the two weeks of workshops the classes are overflowing, which is very encouraging.
It’s not always easy getting the message out that we’re here. The last time we were here, some beautiful posters were produced to tell people about what we were doing here, but unfortunately they didn’t go up until our last day – which was a little frustrating!
aQ: So is there a willingness to embrace traditional art here in Qatar?
RH: People are responding really well to what we’ve been doing. I’ve been helping people explore the geometric side of art and my colleague Nooshin has been focusing on the freehand and Arabesque side of things. Typically the two elements have been combining during our workshops.
From what I’ve seen on my visits here, I believe that there’s now a huge interest in the arts in Qatar. I’ve heard people complain that there’s not that much to do in Doha. But, of course, if you look hard enough you can find things to interest you. We’ve definitely found that people have been very excited to discover that a workshop like ours is taking place.
You can check out Richard’s work at www.richardhenry.info or go to www.psta.org.uk for more details about The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.