The Majlis:
A Meeting Place
by Caravane Earth

November 2022 - March 2023
The Palace of Shaikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani

The National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ)

Majlis: Research

Majlis مجلس stands for a place to receive guests. It is also a word for assembly. Majlis embodies the bridge between the personal and the public. It is a space of hospitality that preserves the tradition and nurtures the sprouts of new communality.

The Majlis: A Meeting Place is a multi-layered project that comprises an architectural object, an exhibition, and a public program. Its initial unveiling was at the 2021 Venice Biennale, where The Majlis was installed on the grounds of the San Giorgio Maggiore Monastery. The project continues with the exhibition held at the National Museum of Qatar, including the buildings of the Old Amiri Palace.

The Majlis structure was originally built using textiles and bamboo by two teams of specialists in Colombia and Morocco. In the current iteration of The Majlis: A Meeting Place exhibition, we include the work of local Qatari artisans. Al Sadu weavers produced over 360 square metres of textiles for the walls, doors, and roof of the construction as well as eight special symbolic rugs — two for each entrance.

The Majlis is surrounded by a garden that brings together herbs and edible plants mentioned in the Quran, twenty different kinds of palms, and Sidra trees, which are known as emblematic plants of Qatar. All the plants in the garden come from the ​​Heenat Salma Farm and the soil they grow in has been specially prepared with the use of local organic compost.

Exhibition

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One of the central parts of The Majlis exhibition is Al Sadu textiles produced by Qatari Bedouin weavers. This process was documented carefully and was part of broader research focused on this craft in the context of Qatar.
Another part of The Majlis exhibition is a series of photos by Jörg Gruber that document the different forms of labour that were involved in realizing the project.

The new Majlis exhibition is held at the National Museum of Qatar — in a bamboo-textile construction designed by architects Simón Vélez and Stefana Simić — as well as in some of the main buildings of the complex of the Old Amiri Palace.

One of the main components of the project is the Al Sadu weaving craft practised by Qatari Bedouin women. Al Sadu is a horizontal weaving style: it features ancient geometric patterns that echo colours and shapes of the desert. Caravane Foundation is conducting extensive research and documentation of the craft with the aim of preserving it for the future generations.

All the components of the exhibition are meant to frame the idea of the meeting place-a place where the human and the natural, the material and the spiritual, the timeless and the momentary, intersect. The Majlis banner executed in kufic script by Greek interdisciplinary artist Irini Gonou honours the desert and the healing power of the written word. The interior carpets and rugs were hand-produced by the Ain Leuh Women’s Weaving Cooperative from Morocco. The idea and design were developed by Nina Mohammad-Galbert, the Creative Director at Artisan Project, and the textiles were woven by three women from the Ain Leuh Women’s Weaving Cooperative: Khadaouj Ouchkek, Hachmia El Douiri, and Khadija El Aabdi. The viewer may also take a look at a selection of antique weaving tools used by Moroccan artisans and household items symbolic of the Bedouin culture.

The exhibition is an invitation to explore the numerous dimensions of what The Majlis stands for: as a possibility to meet, as a hospitable location, as a tradition open for reinventions, as an intersection between material care and spiritual evolution that enables each within it.

Programme:

The Majlis is an ongoing experiment in the actual practice of living and working together. It brings together academics, architects, artists, craftspeople, policy makers, and thinkers from all over the world. They are all implementing tangible steps towards preserving cultural heritage, passing on the knowledge of traditional crafts and architecture, maintaining ecological balance, developing intercultural dialogue, and decolonizing the work of cultural institutions. The contributions of the Heenat Salma Creative Residency have helped to make the exhibition a place for both interaction and participation. Through the Al Sadu studio, visitors to the exhibition are given the chance to learn about this important tradition.

Heenat Salma Creative Residency features a special artist residency programme for motivated, aspiring individuals working in the field of traditional crafts and art. An important aspect of the residency is the creation and support of communities focused on horizontal connections and intercultural dialogue. The residency refers to a decolonial approach in their activities based on mutual respect and ethical values, such as ethical production and the professional integrity of community relations. The residency’s communication and collaboration with Al Sadu weavers has been a focal point of The Majlis in Qatar. The organisation has been helping to support the communities of weavers and to preserve the tradition of Al Sadu as a form of intangible cultural heritage.

Old Palace

The Old Palace, located in Doha, Qatar, in the early 20th century served as the residence of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani. It became defunct in 1923 when Abdullah bin Jassim shifted his seat of government to the then-abandoned Ottoman fort of Qal’at al-Askar. In 1972, it was decided that it would be converted into a museum, culminating in the National Museum of Qatar.

The Majlis: A Meeting Place exhibition is held in the central yard of the National Museum of Qatar as well as some of the main buildings of the complex of the Old Amiri Palace.

The Majlis Journey: At La Biennale di Venezia
17th International Architecture Exhibition

At the 17th Architectural exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, The Majlis hosted an exhibition responding to the theme of the Biennale, How will we live together? Showcasing artworks and rare artefacts from the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Qatar, as well as several other important collections, the project presented a platform for transnational and transhistorical exchange. The Majlis exhibition strived to rehabilitate and reinvent the idea of cultural diplomacy through practices of care and cultural sensitivity.

In addition to that, the exhibition highlighted the invisible processes behind the creation of The Majlis, revealing the material and immaterial labour that has brought it into being.Virtual tour

Caravane Earth

is a foundation with a mission to seed, practice, and promote ethical entrepreneurship and wellbeing through art, craft, architecture, agriculture, and education. We work towards positive systemic impact in social, cultural, and ecological realms. Based on principles of sustainable development, Caravane Earth supports craftspeople and strives to preserve distinct material cultures of West Asia and North Africa, introduces permaculture in extreme climatic conditions of the region, enhances its connectedness, and enables its participation in numerous intercultural dialogues.
Learn more about our mission

Press

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The Majlis received some supportive feedback from our guests and the press during the first weeks of the biennale. We are open to collaboration with media and bloggers interested in architecture, crafts, and organic farming. Our press kit is available here. Please contact us if you’d like to help us spread the word about our project, we’ll be happy to answer your questions: info@caravane.earth

Team

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Simón Vélez
Majlis Architect
Born in Manizales, Colombia in 1949, Simón Vélez is the son and grandson of architects. Almost 40 years ago, Simón discovered a simple construction technique that revolutionised the way we can build with bamboo. Since then, he has carried out over 300 such projects around the globe. His notable works include the bamboo pavilion in Expo Hannover (2000) and Contemplation (Arles, France 2018).
Stefana Simić
Majlis Architect
Stefana was born in New York, and after receiving her undergrad and masters in architecture at Columbia, she travelled to Central Europe to research vernacular architecture. Since 2014, she has been working with Simon in Bogota. Together they have designed projects such as the prefabricated travelling bamboo pavilion, Contemplation Project, and an exhibition at the Biennale di Venezia.
Maytha Saed D Abusalaa
Master Weaver
Maytha Saed (of the Abusalaa tribe) lives in Muaither. She started weaving when she was 13 years old. She was taught by her female side of the family and became an expert in the craft of Al Sadu weaving within a year. She is proud of the work she has done through the years and credits her efforts as reviving the Al Sadu weaving tradition in the country. She is an active weaver who is motivated by the encouragement of her community and clients. She is currently teaching Al Sadu weaving workshops at Heenat Salma farm.
Noof Al-Naama
Artist (Qatar)
Following the footsteps of her grandfather, Jassim Zaini- the first Fine Artist in Qatar, she has always sought to celebrate the hidden gems and values of the Qatari culture. To Noof, Interior Design becomes a great tool that opens many doors. Through her love for sketching and the power of three- dimensional designing, she not only showcases the affluent Qatari traditions to the world, but is also able to tackle the biggest dilemma the country faces: preserving heritage and history in a world influenced by technological advancements.
Ahmed Chmiti
Exterior Fabric Production (Morocco)
Growing up in a nomadic family in Boujad, Morocco, Ahmed Chmiti lived in Berber tents, herded sheep and sewed roof panels in his spare time. Now he runs a workshop with 20 craftspeople who weave and knot each tent by hand. He represents a small group of skilled artists who take ancient craft techniques and adapt them for today’s use.
Fatima Chmiti Atti
Exterior Fabric Production (Morocco)
Fatima took part in the production of textiles the Majlis with the use of ancient craft techniques adapted for today’s use: 250 kilograms of wool over the 80 square-meter building. In the end, that 300 square-metre canvas of wool was produced by the hands of 20 skilled craftswomen over the course of 3 months.
Irini Gonou
Artist
Born in Athens, Irini Gonou graduated from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts and from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs of Paris, where she lived for eleven years. She studied Paleography at the NGB Historical and Paleographical Archive of Athens. She has shown her art work in thirty solo exhibitions in Greece, Cyprus, France, Germany, UK, Belgium, USA, Norway and Egypt.
Jörg Gruber
Photography and Filming
Jörg Gruber is an acclaimed photographer and cinematographer who has been documenting the working process of craftspeople connected to Caravane Earth’s initiatives, in particular, those responsible for the construction of the Majlis.
Fahad bin Mohammed Al Attiyah
Managing director of Caravane Earth
Managing Director of Caravane Earth Foundation and a recognized supporter of global environmental issues and resource sustainability.
Hassan Al Ibrahim
Travel and Tourism Expert
An executive with a diverse experience in travel and tourism, education, public policy, energy, social entrepreneurship, and investments.
Igor Garin
Art Director
Art director, art practitioner, and passionate participant in the ethical, slow-and-custom clothing design movement.
Galya Larina
Design and Development
Born in Moscow, multimedia designer, researcher, lecturer, eco activist, and creator of Plasticdoom, a brand of things made from recycled plastic bags. She received a BA in Graphic Design from the British Higher School of Art and Design and an MA in Art History from RHSU (Moscow). She has also studied at the Studio of Boris Trofimov. Galya launched the concept store Recycle, by collecting and selling designer clothes made from "trash." She made the first machine from the series "Precious Plastic" in Russia, and after a while went to live and work together with the entire Precious Plastic community in the Netherlands. She is a participant in international workshops and exhibitions (eu/usa/gb), winner of the international competition D&AD, organiser of various festivals, workshops, and lectures about green design and sustainability.
Bachir Mohammad
Project Manager
Event and project manager, co-founder of Bluribbon Design Atelier.
Farah Al Yasin
Textile Production, Communication with the Weavers in Qatar
Head of Creative Residency at Heenat Salma Farm, specialises in craft, textiles, and interior design.
Rasima Isaeva
Textile Manager and Producer
Born in Moscow Russia, Rasima has a degree in Economics and studied Cultural Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She started her career in Moscow Museum of Modern Art as a production assistant. Over the years, she worked as project coordinator and producer for a variety of creative and cultural institutions in Russia and the Netherlands including: Design Factory Flacon, ArtTenders, and Unseen Photo Fair. Since joining CaravaneEarth in 2020, support of art and cultural traditions in the context of today’s world has become Rasima's main concern.
Soumia Masmoudi
Permaculture Architect
Head of Permaculture at Heenat Salma Farm, architect and urbanist, permaculture expert, and botanical artist.
Ganna Ostapenko
Film Producer and Photographer
Actress, producer, photographer, and videographer originally from Ukraine. Through work as a curator at the Festival of Contemporary Art “Gogol Fest” in Kiev, participation in theatre festivals in Poland, administrative positions in companies in Egypt and Georgia, she moved to Moscow five years ago. Since then she has been working on various film projects in Moscow, Germany, and France as a 1st assistant director and producer. She led the Safe theatre project for two years as a producer, then took up photography and videography, focusing on a slow introspective view of simple rituals of daily life.
Nina Mohammad-Galbert
Sourcing Partner Africa, Artist
Born in Palestine, and raised in California, Nina Mohammad-Galbert is Creative Director at Artisan Project, a pioneer sustainable sourcing and ethical craft production company founded in Fes in 2011 and now based in Tangier, Morocco. Nina works to improve the lives of craftspeople, their families and villages, while ensuring that hand-weaving tradition and skills passed down through generations remain alive. Artisan Project aims to preserve and protect the once nomadic people of Morocco known to most as Berbers. Their true name is ‘Amazigh’ meaning ‘free humans’, and their culture comes with a rich textile history deeply rooted in the landscape.
Rajae El Mouhandiz
Senior Adviser Caravane Earth
Rajae El Mouhandiz is a Dutch - Moroccan/Algerian interdisciplinary artist, producer, curator, art consultant and policy advisor, with extensive experience in the arts/culture sector in The Netherlands and abroad. In 2005 she started her own label; Truthseeker records, in 2015 she transformed it into Kahina Productions and in 2019 she launched Ellae Foundation, to counter the gender and culture gap in the arts/cultural sector. Over the years she was an MLT and WISE member and currently she is an Ariane de Rothschild Legacy Fellow. In the last 12 years in a row, she was listed in the arts and culture section of the annual list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the World. More info: rajae.net | ellae.nl
Noor-Virginie Haumont
Contemplative Programming
Head of the Wellness department at Heenat Salma Farm and the founder of an organic ethical skincare brand.
Ivan Dubkov
Food Curator
Brand chef, gastronomical curator, and the former gastronomical curator for the embassy of the state of Qatar to the Russian Federation.

Location

The Majlis exhibition is held at the National Museum of Qatar, including the buildings of the Old Amiri Palace. All the components of the exhibition are meant to frame the idea of "a meeting place," a place where the human and the natural, the material and the spiritual, the timeless and the momentary, intersect. The Majlis exhibition is free of charge.

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