This exhibition, which has been led by Layla Bacha, Art Specialist and Nour Elbasuni, Coordinator at Qatar Foundation, puts together two projects created at VCUarts Qatar.
The Modern Prayer Rugs exhibit represents a culmination of the design journey of six finalists who entered the VCUarts Qatar Materials Library Modern Prayer Design Competition in 2017. This exhibition was inspired by the creative vision of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. The six rugs being exhibited represent the finalists of the Modern Prayer Rug Design Competition which was hosted by the Materials Library at VCUarts Qatar.
The competition challenged students from across Qatar to submit concept designs that reimagined the Islamic prayer rug using traditional or unconventional materials, while honoring the richness and the values of Islamic culture and heritage. The six finalists, selected on the overall strength of their concepts, had the opportunity to work with the professional staff and collections of VCUarts Qatar's Materials Library to produce the six rug prototypes for an exhibition. The ‘Modern Prayer Rug’ exhibition features six beautiful and creative prayer rugs that demonstrate innovative uses of materials and functional design elements, and was presented for the first time at Company House, Msheireb Downtown Doha in the Fall of 2017.
The designers included: Aaqifa Altaf, Ahmed Al Nowfal, Maryam Al Semaitt, May Makia, Nawar Al Mutlaq, Mohammad Yasin Arafat, Neihan Yaqoob, Sidra Sohail and Sultana Jesmine.
The Modern Felted Prayer Rugs were handmade in the Netherlands by students and faculty from the MFA in Design program at VCUarts Qatar. Wispy wool fibers—when agitated with soap and water—tangle and blend to form a non-woven textile called felt. The ancient process requires careful observation and keen sensory awareness. With deliberate movement and attention to the strands of wool, the material transforms before one’s eyes. It is a natural alchemy; out of many, one.
Each year students and faculty from the MFA in Design program at VCUarts in Qatar travel together to participate in an immersive learning experience—their annual field study. They travel outside the Gulf region to benefit from specialized knowledge and innovative processes, while maintaining a cultural link to Qatar through the design outcomes they produce. It is a strategic fusion of old and new, students and faculty, foreign and familiar.
The 2017 field study included a five-day workshop in Oldeberkoop, the Netherlands. Students and faculty each designed and felted a modern prayer rug. The modern felted prayer rugs explore the following themes: modernity (impact of advanced materials and technologies on the act of fabrication), tactility, surface, depth, function, portability, comfort, durability, and cultural resonance.
The designers included: Majdulin Nasrallah, Mariam Rafehi, Rabab Abdulla, Rabeva Khatoon and Yasmeen Suleiman.
A special thanks to Hawar Textile Institute and Qatar Foundation.
Image credit: Modern felted prayer rug, Yasmeen Suleiman, 2017.