Orality to Image: Traditional Qatari Narratives and Visual Media

By Jesse Ulmer and Patty Paine.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 2009, the Childhood Cultural Centre in the Arabian Gulf state of Qatar developed a series of initiatives aimed at inculcating reading habits among Qatari children. These initiatives were conceived in response to a recent study reporting that Qatari children, outside of school, read roughly a quarter of a page per year compared to children in the United States and the United Kingdom who read an average eight to eleven books per year. Moreover, In a 2007 speech delivered at the Conference on Illiteracy Challenges in the Arab World, Her Highness Sheikah Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, observed that the Arab World faces “several forms of illiteracies,” which include “illiteracy of reading and writing” and “illiteracy of culture” (Al-Missned 4). In an effort to tackle these illiteracies in the Arab world, a group of college professors and students in Qatar are working in collaboration and across disciplines to preserve and re-present traditional Qatari culture by adapting cross-generational oral stories into visual form and publishing them in an anthology. The aim of this collection is to educate readers and students about traditional Qatari culture and lore while also promoting an appreciation for reading and the visual arts. By using a popular artistic medium to develop basic literacy skills and to support cultural preservation, our presentation aims to show how cultural and and textual illiteracies in the Arab world can be ameliorated in innovative, imaginative ways.

Keywords: Literacy, Comic Books, Graphic Design, Collaboration, Multi-disciplinary, Undergraduate Research, Qatar, Arab, Orality, Image

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.71-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 715.252KB).

Jesse Ulmer

Assistant Professor of English, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, Doha, Doha, Qatar

Jesse Ulmer is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Doha, Qatar. He completed his undergraduate work in English Studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his graduate work in English Literature at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Since 2007, he has been teaching literature and composition to international students in Doha, Qatar. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature & Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include literature of the American Midwest, cultural studies, composition, and teaching English as a second language.

Patty Paine

Assistant Professor of English, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, Doha, Doha, Qatar

Patty Paine is author of Oracle Bones (Red Hen Press), Elegy & Collapse (Finishing Line Press), and co-editor of Gathering the Tide: An Anthology of Contemporary Gulf Poetry (Garnet Publishing & Ithaca Press). Her poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in Blackbird, The Atlanta Review, Gulf Stream, The Journal and many other publications. She is the founding editor of Diode Poetry Journal, and is an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar where she teaches writing and literature and is Assistant Director of the Liberal Arts & Sciences Program.

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