Qatari artist Muna Al-Bader is bringing cans of spray paint in her famous shades of blue to the University of Houston for an interactive event that truly illustrates the meaning of public art.
Spectators will get the opportunity to witness her every move as Al-Bader creates a mural on the UH campus starting Friday, Nov. 5 through Thursday, Nov. 11. Once the piece titled “Cultural Bonds” is complete, it will be on view for a year at the site outside the technology building in the UH Arts District.
“My art is exceptionally inclusive. The work that I will be creating, that I have proposed for Houston, depicts the strong link between education, urban civilization and cultural progress between the State of Qatar and America, especially Houston,” said Al-Bader. “I evoke these relationships, bonds and beautiful memories through art.”
“Cultural Bonds” is the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar; JEDARIART, a Qatari annual public art program, which is traveling to the United States this year; the Diplomacy Institute of University of Houston-Clear Lake; and Public Art of the University of Houston System. It was commissioned in celebration of the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture and, fittingly, it commemorates the 50th anniversary of cultural ties between the two countries.
"Despite the limitations and challenges faced from the pandemic, the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture has persevered to provide a true cultural exchange, and a deep connection between the citizens of both countries," said Gigi Do, associate vice president, UHCL Global Learning and Strategy.
Trained as an engineer in her home country of Qatar, Al-Bader has worked as an artist for the past 14 years. Her murals are mainstays in Qatar’s capital city Doha and have been prominently featured in various art festivals including Doha 360 in 2018. Her recent work is characterized by the use of varying shades of blue, a color that she is spiritually connected to.
“Muna Al-Bader is best known for color-filled paintings that blend realistic elements and abstraction, while merging iconic Qatari traditions and culture with Western artistic lexicons,” said María C. Gaztambide, Public Art UHS director and chief curator. “We are delighted to host Muna at the University of Houston and thrilled that our diverse communities will have an opportunity to engage with her as she creates a mural inspired by the universal qualities of art.”
In addition to murals, Al-Bader’s paintings have been shown at many solo exhibitions in Qatar, including the Dandanah Exhibitions of 2019 and 2020, the youth creative art center and the Arab Youth Forum (2007 and 2009). Al-Bader is a member of the Qatar Fine Arts Association and the Souq Waqif Art Center. She currently serves as Qatar’s art ambassador to the UNESCO’s ResiliArt Talk program.
“JEDARIART is one of the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture programs that continues to make a huge impact on local communities within the states,” said Aisha Al Attiya, director of Cultural Diplomacy, Years of Culture. “We are so pleased that Al-Bader’s work will be on view at the University of Houston. By introducing these talented artists and their artwork that tell such rich stories to cities across the U.S., we are able to create a mutual partnership and understanding of both cultures.”
"The JEDARIART program provides a platform for many talented and accomplished Qatari artists to share their inspired work and creativity with the world, as is the case with the brilliant artist Muna Al-Bader," said Fatema Al-Baker, director of Public Diplomacy Outreach at the Embassy of the State of Qatar to the United States. "JEDARIART's Houston, Texas activation continues to celebrate the trusted partnership between the U.S. and the State of Qatar. The work by these talented artists is at the core of the Qatar-USA Year of Culture mission to build bridges that enrich our lives and deepen the cultural understanding of communities in our two nations."
The Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture falls under the Years of Culture initiative, which is an annual international cultural exchange designed to deepen the understanding between nations and their people.
"The Year of Culture provides a means to celebrate the long-standing relationship between the State of Qatar and the United States through a variety of mediums including arts, sports, and culture,” said The Honorable Consul General Rashid Al Dehaimi, State of Qatar Embassy. “The Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture allows our nations to strengthen and build cultural connections."
The JEDARIART mural project at the University of Houston is supported by Qatar Museums, platinum sponsor Exxon Mobil and Qatar Airways. In partnership with local organizations, JEDARIART has already left its mark in Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA and will continue in Miami, FL. Each artist brings his/her own personal style and celebration of Qatari culture to walls throughout the U.S.