Cover image: Qatar Museums
Her Excellency (H.E.) Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has played revolutionary roles in culture, education and humanitarian relief, leading and providing endless support to a number of local and international organisations. She is also very well-known in the art world, be it in Qatar or across the globe.
Today, the 14th daughter of Qatar’s ruling family, is the most powerful woman in art; Art+Auction ranked her the most influential person in the world, Forbes ranked her as one of the 100 most powerful women of the world, Art Review ranked her as the most influential person in art in its Power 100 ranking and she has also prominently appeared on the Time 100. She is also the recipient of the the Global Thinkers Forum 2014 Award for Excellence in Cultural Understanding.
Her roles are many:
Sister: She is the sister of His Highness (H.H.) The Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, His Excellency (H.E.) Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, H.E. Sheikh Mishaal bin Hamad Al Thani and Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani.
Daughter: She is the daughter of H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani – the former Amir, H.H. Sheikh Tamim and also father of the current Amir - and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser - the former First lady.
Wife: She is the wife of Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani whom she married at the Wajbah Palace in 2006.
Mother: She is the mother of four: three boys and a girl.
Chairperson: She is the Chairperson of a number of important institutions in Qatar - Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute, Reach Out to Asia (ROTA).
Founding Partner: She is the Founding Partner of the Art Leaders Network.
Image Credit: Qatar Museums
Sheikha Al Mayassa graduated from Duke University, North Carolina in 2005 where she gained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in political science and literature. While studying at Duke, she was the vice president of the Duke International Association, vice president of Duke’s Hiwar Group which promoted political dialogue. She was also part of a delegation in the 2001-2002 Model United Nations.
She spent the summer of 2002 working in the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and studied at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sobonne and the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris during the 2003-2004 academic year.
She also has a postgraduate degree from Columbia University in International and Public Affairs and other than her native language of Arabic, she is fluent in English and French.
At one point in her life, Sheikha Al Mayassa did an internship with Hollywood superstar and legend Robert De Niro at his Tribeca Productions. This internship led to the establishment of Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar in 2009 which went on for three years with the partnership coming to an end in 2012 during which it was associated with the Doha Film Institute after it was established in 2010 with Sheikha Al Mayassa as its Patron and Chairperson.
The DFI is a non-profit organisation dedicated to cinematic appreciation, education, and building a sustainable film industry in Qatar and throughout the region. The Institute’s platforms include funding and production of local, regional and international films, skills-sharing and mentorship programmes, film screenings, the Ajyal Youth Film Festival, and Qumra.
With culture, community, learning and entertainment at its foundation, the Institute is committed to supporting Qatar’s 2030 Vision, and is something that Sheikha Al Mayassa is very passionate about.
After her graduation, she took over the reins of ROTA - established in November 2005) - from her parents who conceived the idea. Under her expert guidance and articulate direction, within the first five months, ROTA had raised 30 million dollars to help those people who lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones in the 2005 tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Since then ROTA has built or adopted schools, provided quality education, promoted female education, initiated academic fellowships, coordinated student exchange programs, provided teacher and vocational training, and connected participating countries through a shared knowledge network all over Asia.
On one hand, Sheikha Al Mayassa's aim is to promote art and culture, by connecting Qatar’s heritage sites and its cultural institutions so they can flourish, and to make Qatar into an international hub of art, culture and education. Under her patronage, Qatar Museums has moved from strength to strength and established centres for art and culture that are Islamic and traditional and, yet also, contemporary and universal; The Museum of Islamic Art being the most prominent of them all. Thousands of locals and visitors’ throng to these centres to enjoy their magnificent art and revel in their unique architectural designs.
In her own words: “We don’t want to be the same. We want to respect and understand each other…we want to build our identity, our own fabric”. She stands committed to this statement and has helped, in more ways than one, to ensure Qatar builds its own identity, especially in the world of art, culture and education, and in line with Qatar’s 2030 Vision for the development of a knowledge-based economy. She has done this by weaving Qatar’s rich history and its cultural heritage with a contemporary vision of thinking to create a unique fabric that permits creativity to thrive in conjunction with the country’s rapid development.
On the other hand, Sheikha Al Mayassa believes in providing those that are in need with quality education.Her vision of a world in which all children, no matter where they are, have access to high-quality primary and secondary education is something she is constantly working on and striving to achieve through ROTA.
Even before Sheikha Al Mayassa became the Chairperson of ROTA, she was actively involved in helping those in need and was working with several humanitarian projects in the Arabian Gulf and Asia regions. In 2001, she worked in a local NGO in Cambodia and led a campaign to raise funds for the Palestinian cause. In 2003, she was closely associated with Qatar's Red Crescent (a Red Cross partner) to raise money for clothing and school equipment for Iraqi children.
When it comes to humanitarian aid and relief, Sheikha Al Mayassa has a ‘can do, will do' attitude; she was one of the first to hop on a plane and arrive in Pakistan in October 2005 when a devastating earthquake hit Pakistan leaving tens of thousands of people dead, injured or without a roof over their heads. She took many tons of aid which included, tents, blankets and sleeping bags amongst other items. She visited with many who survived the earthquake, government and education authorities to deliberate on how to rebuild the areas most badly affected. Since then, she has facilitated the building of youth centres in Iraq; initiated Safe Areas for an Emergency Education initiative in Palestine, facilitated human capital development through developing technical and physical capacities to increase the number of job placements among graduate students in Bangladesh with the received skills, knowledge and information through institutions with quality technical education that helped them create sustainable incomes; focused on cultural and educational development programs to help rebuild Cambodia’s heritage and give children hope for their futures, amongst many other philanthropic endeavours through ROTA.
From an early age, Sheikha Al Mayassa enjoyed visiting museums and learning about people who came from diverse cultures and different countries, and this is the reason she took up the subjects she did while studying for her degrees. As a child, she accompanied her parents on foreign official visits and these helped shape her and prepare her for the kind of roles she is taking on now.
In fact, by the time this eloquent and dynamic individual was 25, she had spent time at New York’s United Nations General Assembly, met up with Japan’s Emperor and Empress, and Britain’s Prince Charles. Today, she mingles with the cream of the art world, amongst other foreign dignitaries and famous people and has already held exhibitions in Qatar with such big names in the contemporary art world as Damien Hirst, Richard Serra and Takashi Murakami to name a few.
Sheikha Al Mayassa has even given a TED Talk in 2010 in which she spoke about bridging the gaps between cultures through art. In this talk, she commented on how art is an important part of Qatar’s identity and said: “Art becomes a very important part of our national identity…Qatar is trying to grow its national museums through an organic process from within. Our mission is of culture, integration and independence…Culture's a very important tool to bring people together.”
Image Credit: TED Talk
Today, in 2019, it would not be wrong to say that Sheikha Al Mayassa has accomplished many of the goals she set out for the country she calls home and is so proud of, and the rest are on the way to getting achieved as well! It’s just a matter of time now!
To find out more about Sheikha Al Mayassa, check out the following:
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