Creativity strikes gold

By Kim Catley

On September 20, as part of Qatar Week 2022, VCUarts hosted a panel discussion, Creativity Strikes Gold at the FIFA World Cup.

The event featured VCUarts Qatar alumnae Aisha Al-Ziani (B.F.A.’20/A), Bouthayna Al Muftah (B.F.A.’10/A) and Fatma Al Jaidah (B.F.A.’07/A), who shared their involvement in this year’s FIFA World Cup, hosted by Qatar. As a project director, Al Jaidah leads the delivery of the Corniche, a 6-kilometer global street carnival featuring performances, concerts, art, and culture. Al Muftah is a Qatari artist who blends printmaking, typography, documentation, and performance—an approach she took when designing the official poster series for the World Cup. And Al-Ziani, a visual artist and singer, performed on the official soundtrack of the World Cup, Hayya Hayya (Better Together).

The alumnae spoke about their roles in the global event and the challenges they faced along the way, as well as their perspectives on Qatar as a creative community. They also offered advice for students and up-and-coming artists.

“The World Cup is a sporting event, but it is much more than that,” said Amir Berbić, dean of VCUarts Qatar, who moderated the discussion. “There is a significant creative element that is meant to capture the spirit of the game, and build engagement, and add flavor and color to the experience. That is where designers and artists step up and deliver, and that is where our alumnae have stood out.” 

The following is an excerpt from their conversation. 

Berbić: Qatar is developing as a tourism destination, and as an experienced brand. Fatma, how did this brand positioning influence what you are planning as the visitor experience for the World Cup?

Al Jaidah: It’s the first World Cup in Qatar, in the region, and in the Arab world. This is a great opportunity for us. We’re receiving thousands of fans, and it will be the first time to experience our hospitality, our culture, and our talents. We had to look at Qatar as a whole, and how can we drive different fans on board. We looked into guest personas, understanding how each segment of guests are coming in Qatar, whether it’s a football enthusiast, or a tourist, or a family enjoying the games with their kids. 

Berbić: Bouthayna, can you walk us through your concept for the posters? 

Al Muftah: I wanted to know what football meant to the local community, and I wanted to translate this concept into something that was authentic. So at the beginning, I was doing a lot of research and looking at football in the past and how it had evolved to what it is today. I looked at football culture and how people celebrate a win. How children used to play football in the old neighborhoods. 

There’s also a typographic layer in the posters, and that comes from this concept that I had built about the voices of people within the stadiums and the chanting and how that can build a sense of belonging.

Berbić: For Aisha, a similar question. Can you discuss the song Hayya Hayya—its meaning, its theme, its message?

Al-Ziani: I didn’t write the song, but I can tell you an interpretation from my perspective. I think it’s about bringing people together. It shows the surge of football, where people come together to celebrate, regardless of their differences. Even if we’re far from each other, we don’t share the same language, we all share this love of football.

Berbić: What’s in store for the creative community in Qatar? Where do you see some opportunities for those who might be watching or who are still students and are hoping to do the kind of amazing work that the three of you are doing?

Al Jaidah: There’s so much opportunity that has been happening in the past five years or so. There are many initiatives that [Qatar Museums] has developed. There’s the [Doha Film Institute]. I’m seeing VCU graduates also being part of projects like the Olympic Games and the national emblem that recently came out. 

It seems like the creative industry is growing—not just in the private sector, but also in the government entities. I don’t think it stops after the World Cup.

Al-Ziani: The most important thing would be not to do something because of the belief that it’s not considered high enough in society. That would be limiting to think that, because you never know what opportunities are going to come. Ten years ago, none of us knew that we would actually be this involved in the World Cup and would be creating history.