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Sunday, August 1, 2021

New photography project puts spotlight on Qatar’s ‘unseen’ workers

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All photos by Aparna Jayakumar for DohaFashionFridays

A new community initiative that hopes to highlight the human side of Qatar’s blue-collar expats has launched this week.

DohaFashionFridays is the brainchild of acclaimed Qatar-based political cartoonist Khalid Albaih, who described it as a cross between Humans of New York and street fashion blogging.

Speaking to Doha News, he said the idea behind it was to create a forum to show off the style of the people who build Qatar.

Qatar-based cartoonist Khalid Albaih
Qatar-based cartoonist Khalid Albaih

In doing so, he said he aims to break down some of the divides that exist between communities in Qatar and bring people together.

“There are so many workers now in Qatar and they move between their buses to their work sites and back again in their jumpsuits. No one really sees them or knows about them as people. It’s very dehumanizing.

They are people the same as you and me. I wanted to tell their stories,” Albaih said.

Other online photo projects in Qatar have also tried to highlight the population’s over its differences, including Humans of the Middle East and Faces of Qatar.

How it works

Fashion Fridays launched last week on Instagram and Tumblr, showcasing the first of more than a dozen men who have already taken part.

Alongside a photographer and sometimes a translator, Albaih spent several Fridays – the main day off for many people in Qatar – on Doha’s Corniche. There, they sought out stylishly dressed people and asked them if they’d like to take part.

Each post features a portrait shot of the person, along with basic details such as their name, age, job, home country and one of their fashion idols.

Albaih said he plans to expand on this to include some biography and comments from the participants.

The styles of those who have taken part so far are eclectic. One man is shown wearing a carefully tailored pink kurta, while another is dressed in a metal-studded belt and bomber jacket.

So far, the men photographed are from Nepal, India and the Philippines. Many said they were influenced by actors, singers and other public figures.

Fashion stories

According to Albaih, once the aim of the project was explained, most people were very happy to talk and get involved.

As an artist, Albaih said he is drawn to style and to stylish people.

It was during a walk on the Corniche with friends one Friday that he noticed how many of the men there were well-dressed.

Albaih is now calling for interested photographers and fashion bloggers to get involved.

Once a team has been put together, it will scout new locations around town to find and feature people.

“This is a social movement. It’s about art, it’s about fashion and it’s about bringing people together and getting to know each other better. I want to make Doha as tight a community as it once was,” Albaih, who has lived here for 25 years, added.

You can follow DohaFashionFridays on Instagram. Thoughts?

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