Patriotism in the crisis-hit country gets a boost from a casual portrait of the emir
As Qatar finds itself at the centre of a diplomatic storm, a young artist has shot to stardom with a sketch of the emir – now the emblem of Qatari nationalism.
In the capital Doha, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s face is everywhere, thanks to a silhouette of the ruler’s profile and the slogan “Tamim al-majd” – Arabic for “Tamim the Glorious” – on car bumpers, shop windows, concrete walls and mobile-phone cases.
Maadheed’s painting of the Qatari Emir has been shared widely on social media since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke ties with Qatar on June 5. Photo/AFP
“I have no words to describe what I feel when I see my illustration everywhere,” says Ahmed al-Maadheed. He created his design hours after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 for its alleged support for Islamist extremism and ties to Iran. Qatar has denied the allegations.
“It’s a gift from God to have the honour to draw his majesty’s portrait and have it become a symbol,” says Maadheed.
Maadheed posted a portrait of the emir, sketched hastily in black and white immediately after Saudi Arabia and its allies announced the sanctions against Qatar, to his Twitter and Instagram feeds.
The emir’s profile, and the line “Tamim the Glorious” in intricate Arabic calligraphy, spread like wildfire in Qatar after a re-tweet by the emir’s brother, finding its way into the streets as posters, stickers, flags and even jewellery.
The design also resurfaced as a graffiti stencil, frequently painted in black and accompanied by the red-and-white Qatari flag.
Maadheed discusses his portrait of the emir at a gallery in Doha.
The success of “Tamim the Glorious” propelled the then-unknown artist into the limelight overnight, and by the end of June he had exhibited his work at an annex of Qatar’s art museum and one of Doha’s top hotels. Nearly all the paintings sold that month.
Maadheed’s paintings are frequently patriotic, featuring portraits of the royal family and even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – an ally of Sheikh Tamim who has come to Qatar’s aid with food supplies and military training in the Gulf crisis.
“I draw inspiration from my culture, from nature, but also from well-known figures,” Madheed says.
The emblem of the emir has since been translated to English for the country’s sizeable expatriate community, who make up 80 per cent of Qatar’s 2.5 million inhabitants, and stickers and banners in English are now visible across the capital.
Madheed, who runs a small advertising agency by day, said he had been offered US$10 million (Bt332 million) for the original Arabic design by a private party, but opted instead to gift it to Sheikh Tamim.
“I’m thankful God gave me the chance to create this sort of work, which expresses my love for the emir,” Maadheed says.