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A look into Reem Al-Haddad’s Ajyal Outbreak Exhibition

In her latest photo exhibition, Qatari artist Reem Al-Haddad highlights the harsh realities of survival during today’s unprecedented times.


Trapped in boxes in the sharp brightness of the desert sun, a girl stands in the expanse. Dressed in white, her vulnerability, emptiness and coldness in isolation is captured.

Isolation. Quarantine. Loneliness: It is with these three words that the artist behind the pictures, Reem Al-Haddad, has taken inspiration.

Photographing these ‘boxes of loneliness’ in the desert, the Qatari artist chose to highlight the brutal honesty, impersonal struggle and harsh realities of survival that many of us are facing in today’s unprecedented times.  

“The Covid-19 outbreak has created a wave of isolation that none of us have ever experienced before,” Al-Haddad tells QRM. 

“My artwork represents the isolation that even the closest of people to me have faced during this pandemic. Although family members are expected to be living together, the outbreak has instead separated us from one another, with each individual now living in their own cage,” she adds. 

“It has made us feel lonely and distant. We’re all alone, suffering from the outside world, with nobody to talk to and nobody to share our thoughts with.”

Dressed in a black sheela, a covering, a young girl stands in the ocean, as the waves gently lap around her. The ocean, representative of our feelings, rises, depicting us drowning in isolation.

Surrounded with silence, broken dreams and unfulfilled wishes, the photograph is a chilling representation of the coldness solitude offers.

“The outbreak has made us feel lonely and distant. We’re all alone, suffering from the outside world, with nobody to talk to and nobody to share our thoughts with”

Reem Al-Haddad

But while pain is conveyed, glimpses of positivity are also gleamed. Away from the harshness of the desert is its resilience — a symbol of strength, spirituality and faith. Likewise, the clean white offers a breath of hope, a reminder of the calm after the storm.

“Positivity can still be conveyed,” Al-Haddad explains. “The desert, for example, can be viewed as a symbol of strength and spirituality, while the use of white hues can portray hope that the calm after the storm will arrive.”

The 21-year-old was one of the artists featured in Doha Film Institute’s 8th Ajyal Film Festival this December. An avid photographer, her artwork centres around people and provokes powerful emotions.

DFI’s Ajyal Film Festival returned this year in a hybrid edition, continuing its tradition of showcasing an incredible selection of world cinema, its Ajyal Talks series with formidable speakers, and it’s Made in Qatar series.

Under the title, Outbreak, DFI’s exhibition reflected the new reality of today’s world as we face a period of instability and uncertainty, while paying tribute to the key workers and modern-day heroes on the frontlines who have been sacrificing their lives daily for people’s safety.

PHOTOS: Images reproduced with the artists’ permission 

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