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CULTURE

Meet Anaj: The half-eagle half-human navigating daily life amid a struggle of identity

Created by Qatari artist Fatima Mohammed and photographed by interdisciplinary artist Ammar Alqamash, the Creative Collective series is a poetic documentation of the social effect of Qatar’s rapid development.

Half eagle, half human, Anaj flits about his daily life in Qatar. From its bird’s eye view, Anaj looks down at the every-day activities in a country rapidly changing.

Inspired by the Batoola, a golden facemask worn for years by local Qatari woman, artist Fatima Mohammed created the character of Anaj, in a poetic documentation of how Qatar’s rapid development affected its people socially.

From a nomadic community that once relied on pearl diving and commercial trading to now one of the world’s fastest growing countries with its kaleidoscope of cultures and nationalities, the project hopes to capture the struggle of identity from the perspective of the fictional world of Anaj.

In the photographs, captured by Ammar Alqamash, we see Fatima adorned with a brown leathered beak, going about everyday life; drinking coffee, having fun — and just being.

‘Birds enjoy coffee’

Evoking the Batoola is the centuries-old memory of women protecting their faces from the desert dust, accompanied by the traditional black cloak, abayat ras, typically worn by the elderly. Together, with the wisdom of the elderly and the protectiveness of the female eagle, the Anaj mask was born.

Just as the eagle teaches its young flight and freedom, Qatari artist Fatima hopes that the Anaj mask can inspire society to be free and proud of its values and dreams.

Anaj, the name of the bird, was chosen without meaning purposefully. “The bird itself is what matters. We didn’t want to give a name with meaning so that we don’t direct people’s thoughts to what this bird is — we want them to see the work without a pre-definition,” explained artist Alqamash.

‘Birds want to be happy’

Mohammed, a contemporary Qatari artist, is known for her work in mixed media, printmaking and installation art. Using medicine intended for her back ailment, Mohammed creates her own ink to use in her art.

Wanting to capture the transformational ideas of daily norms in her visual concepts, Anaj was born, the character inspired by Qatar’s local heritage.

Hoping to introduce art to different communities as a means of social unity, interdisciplinary artist Alqamash partnered with Mohammed to document Anaj in different settings and different timings, capturing normal daily life from the eye of a bird.

‘Happy bird’

The project was first exhibited at the Qatar Contemporary: Art and Photography exhibition in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2018.

Images reproduced with the artists’ permission