6˚ of Separation: People, not country, have changed

Originally published online for JustHere.Fullscreen capture 3252013 101123 PM.bmp

In our last issue visual artist Mohammed Ramadan introduced us to Jassim Almass, a 24-year-old Qatari graphic designer. Here’s what he has to say.

The country today is different, yet it’s the same. Qatar is constantly changing.  It has never had a period where everything just stood still. I think that will always be the case.

My favourite place in Qatar is Zubara Fort. It is the first place I would take any tourist or newcomer to Qatar.

Ten years ago if you mentioned graphic designing as a career people would have mocked you.They didn’t realise the importance of fields beyond oil, gas and engineering.

We no longer live in an era where if your father tells you you’re going to become an engineer then you become one. When most people talk about change here, they talk about infrastructure and preparing for the World Cup 2022. But for me, as a Qatari, the biggest change is the people.

Outsourcing had become a habit. People were shocked we had talent here.  We now see Qatar TV with a full Qatari crew. News reporters and production staff who were all young Qataris with no experience, but they were trusted to get on and do it. We’re seeing an explosion of creativity in Qatar because people now have the license to do what they want to do.

When I was a student the only place in Qatar that offered design majors was Virginia Commonwealth University. But that was only for girls. I had to study abroad to get my graphics degree.  Now VCUQ, Qatar University and the Community College all offer short courses and workshops.

As a student, I spent eight months developing a 3D simulation of the oldest historic site in UAE (a fort dating back to 3BC). I camped there for a week to research the place. You can see the print I presented to Dr Sultan Al Qassemi, the ruler of Sharjah, in the Sharjah archaeological museum.

I got turned on to design through computer games. I was a hardcore gamer. And still am. On a weekly basis I spend 10-20 hours a week on video games, not just for entertainment purposes, but also stress relief and brainstorming.

There is a misconception in Qatar that all video games lead to violence. But to me they are like books. A game has a specific age range, so parents need to avoid buying an 18+ game for a nine-year-old kid.

Traditional art forms like calligraphy and Islamic patterns will continue to be important in Qatar. But others, like comics or cartoons, may have to fight for survival.

For the next interview in this series Jassim recommends we talk to cartoonist Rashid Al Kuwari, who runs the Qartoon network.

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