What if we globalized the local and localized the global?

TED talks are a wonderful demonstration of our globalized society. Although the talks began in 1984 in Monterey, California, they have spread all over the world with offshoots like TEDWomen and TEDx conferences in global cities. It is with this in mind that I recommend the talk by Sheika Al Mayassa, art and culture patron in Qatar. Done during the TEDWomen conference, her talk was held in Doha but was live streamed to an audience in Washington DC. Sheika Al Mayassa tackles head on the topic of globalization, local cultures, art, and women’s roles in all of it.

Al Mayassa is in many ways representative of today’s global citizen. Educated at Duke University, with exchange years at the Sorbonne and Sciences-Po, as well as internships at UNESCO, she currently resides in Doha where she sits on the board of the Qatari National Foundation of Museums and the Council of Trustees of Qatar Museums Authority. She is also the Director of Fitch Qatar.

In spite of her Western pedigree, Al Mayassa is still very much in touch with her Qatari heritage, choosing to wear a traditional abaya not for religious reasons but as “a diverse cultural statement”, in short, she embodies what she believes: globalizing the local and localizing the global.

In this talk, she outlines our conflicting desires to belong and to stand out; as she says “we don’t want to be all the same, we want to respect and understand each other.” She believes that as we become more global, local cultures, things that make us different, become more important, not the other way around. In a young nation like Qatar, where some 60% of the population is under the age of 30, she sees developing and preserving local artistic and cultural traditions as the best way

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to do this. Despite Qatar’s enormous resources, cultural development must be done organically and respecting the regions own desert traditions.

Art defines a nation, a culture, and a people. For a young country like Qatar, creating strong institutions that reflect the region’s rich and diverse heritage is essential. According to Al Mayassa, women are essential in this process. As cultural gatekeepers, women understand inherently the importance of national and regional treasures. Nowadays, instead of merely acting as guardians, women like Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, are beginning to create art as well.

She highlights the newly founded Doha Film Institute, which in its second year of existence trained 66 Qatari women in film and video production. She speaks of Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art that as of right now has just opened: the museum represents the full spectrum of Arab artists, some Muslim, some not. She ends by showing a short film made by one of the Doha Film Institute’s students. It lasts one minute but this humorous scene shows us the important of globalization on a local scale.

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