Privilege Vs Creativity
The future for Qatari writers does not look promising, unless we work as a community to reshape it, says author AbdulAziz AlMahmoud, is scathing about the country’s literary scene.
AbdulAziz AlMahmoud is an engineer, author and journalist. As a writer, AlMahmoud is widely recognised within the community, and his book Al Qursan (in Arabic and The Corsair in English) was very well-received.
His is the first Qatari novel published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.
It was only natural for us to seek his opinion on the low number of successful Qatari writers.
Refreshingly, AlMahmoud approaches the matter from a daring perspective, speaking out against the real factors that are holding Qatari writers back. It seems that the discovery of oil for a small nation such as Qatar, was both a blessing and a curse in many ways. The privilege and the luxury it provided may have brought along peace of mind, but it may have come at the price of literacy and intellectuality.
There is this looming defeatist mentality that is holding us captive. Younger generations are no longer looking to achieve their full potential, rather most are looking for a ‘comfortable’ job that ‘pays well’. This mentality seems to have seeped into all fields and professions, writing is no exception.
Fundamentally, we need to consider the steps we need to take as a nation and as individuals to develop a creatively inspiring and nurturing atmosphere for writers in Qatar. The question remains; will we allow our environment and current understanding of culture to hold us back, or will we take strides forward to redefine our roles in society?
We pose the same set of questions to AlMahmoud that we posed to Qatarican author Sophia Al-Maria.
“Having an easy privileged life has its drawbacks …has stripped Qatar and the youth of the competitive and risk-taking spirit.”
Qatari writers have not received the same global acclaim or recognition for their literary work as writers from Saudi or other neighbouring states.
The truth of the matter is that Qatari writers are not supported the way other writers are supported. Writers require the support of their community before they can achieve any global acclaim. In the Emirates, there’s the Emirates Writers Union that supports and invests in local writers. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, the local media promotes Saudi writers by helping them secure a foothold in the industry and increasing their level of public exposure. Writers are an integral part of society as a whole; it is in the nation’s best interest to help develop the creative atmosphere for writers.
But, there are several books and articles written about the State, it’s rulers and the culture in Qatar.
I don’t think this is what the public is asking for, honestly. Sure, it should be part of the public awareness of the nation, but no more than that. Generally speaking, the books that reach a wider audience are the works of literature that are both engaging and promote a new outlook on a contemporary issue. The books related to Qatar and Qatari culture are at times amusing and pleasant to read, but for the most part they become a decorative piece in someone’s living room.
In recent years, the Art and Film industry received a high level of financial and social support in Qatar. How do you think this has affected the appeal of writing as a profession?
This is a critical issue in Qatar; the younger Qatari generations have lost interest in writing and reading overall. The State needs to create programs or institutions that aim to reinvigorate and reawaken the level of appreciation of the literary field amongst the local community.
Some have argued that the ‘comfortable’ Qatari culture has restricted and adversely affected the level and appreciation of writing.
The system is failing us. What I mean is that Qataris are leading a very easy life, having an easy privileged life has its drawbacks. This privileged lifestyle has stripped Qatar and the youth of the competitive and risk-taking spirit. Our current lifestyle does not support the growth of a flourishing and hardworking generation.
We as a nation need to work on developing an individual that doesn’t take life for granted. An individual who understands that it is important to equip yourself with the knowledge and experience necessary to compete in the workforce on an international level and not simply on the national level.
To be a ‘successful’ writer, it takes…
In my opinion, there are three basic pillars. To begin with, a writer should have basic writing skills. A writer should also take the time to do the proper and necessary amount of research. Lastly, a piece of writing should have a sense of purpose.
The future for Qatari writers will look like…
The way things are now; the future does not look promising. However, if we work together as a community, we could reshape what the future will look like. For a start, local organisations such as QMA, DFI and Qatar Television can achieved a shared benefit from developing and utilizing the efforts of local writers. The State of Qatar can also work on creating and promoting the creation of unions and organizations solely committed to writing and literacy.