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JustHere | August 23, 2017

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Mathaf. Dreams unlimited

Mathaf. Dreams unlimited

Muna Al-Derham’s life changed, but she didn’t know it would when she stepped into a museum. She writes about how not just art in the museums, but the community programmes too, dramatically alter how people view the world around them.

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A Q&A WITH MALAK HASSAN, COMMUNITY OUTREACH SPECIALIST, MATHAF

What is the outreach programme and when did it start?

It is a series of programmes which consist of workshops, events and collaborative initiatives dedicated to local communities in Doha. The programme aims to inspire local communities and increase their awareness to museum education. It is designed to fit the public’s needs, encouraging dialogue, access and interaction with the museum collection. It started in January 2012 after I joined the museum.

How does Mathaf affect the community?

By providing an enriching experience to community members, giving them the chance to interact, learn, share and exchange knowledge within a museum environment.

What in your opinion is the most interesting interaction the museum has had with the community?

I cannot think of one best interaction because all the programmes we provide are dedicated to various ages and backgrounds and each has its specific audience who interact differently and interestingly.

Why does Mathaf do community outreach programs? What do you hope to achieve?

We offer community outreach programmes because we want to provide access to all community members to the museum space with no exceptions. We would like to go to people who are not able to visit us, giving local communities the chance to take part and interact with art.

What are the weekend activities and exhibition activities that Mathaf offers for the community?

We offer Family programmes such as the Family Fridays and the Mathaf and Maktaba Reading Circles. We offer workshops with artists such as Artist Encounters, as well as other events with partner organisations tailored to all ages.

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In this fast-paced world, people strive to find their place in society. At the beginning, my world revolved around my family, friends and University. Sadly, the only source of entertainment was a shopping mall.

Honestly, I used to think that Doha didn’t have anything different and new to offer except for malls and annual festivals. It seemed that most people were programmed to entertain themselves at shopping malls when they felt bored. It worried me and made me want to change my society. But, how do I begin? Where do I start? Will I ever get that chance? Shortly, the answers came rolling in after my first visit to the Arab Museum of Modern art, Mathaf.

Two years ago; a very good friend of mine invited me to Mathaf. She was an intern then who gave tours to the public. Before I’d seen the museum, I thought it would probably just be a building with beautiful artwork in it. I was wrong.

I remember it vividly, sculptures as tall as buildings greeted us on the left, a stone arc with majestic figures to our right, and in front of us a building that looked like it was under construction, but somehow, it was aesthetically pleasing to look at. We bought our tickets and preceded to the galleries. I did not speak for most of the visit. I was in awe; it was definitely not what I expected from a museum. I had the feeling that I was being welcomed. Other than the amazing artwork, which I never thought I’d experience, there were delicate and unique details of Arabian culture on the walls themselves.

After that visit, I was hooked. The need for more of Mathaf grew stronger and stronger. I took every chance I got, whether it was an event, volunteering or a visit to my friend, just to be there. Now, I am proud to say that I am a Mathaf Voice, I give tours to the public from my perspective to help them develop an aesthetic eye for art.

What I realised is that Mathaf truly wants to reach everyone in the community, each programme is tailored to specific audiences. Family Fridays is one of the examples that transforms a museum into a public institution where families can enjoy their time together and learn about art at the same time. Also, Mathaf offers workshops such as Artist Encounters to learn the artist’s special techniques taught by the artists themselves.

Being an intern at Mathaf is like doing what you love as a job. But as a visitor the experience is never dull; you get the feeling that you are welcome, that you are all unique yet connected in one way or another. There is more to Qatar than fancy shopping malls, there is a place that wants to listen to your stories, want know what you think of the world, enrich your artistic senses and create events just for you to connect with the museum and everyone else, on a totally different level.

 

 

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