- Title: A photography project highlights Qatar's blue collar workers
- Date: 27th December 2016
- Summary: ALBAIH LOOKING AT COMPUTER SCREEN ALBAIH'S EYES COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING 'DOHAFASHIONFRIDAYS' FEED ON SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITE INSTAGRAM
- Embargoed: 11th January 2017 11:16
- Keywords: Qatar Doha workers photography art fashion DohaFashionFridays Khalid Albaih
- Location: DOHA, QATAR
- City: DOHA, QATAR
- Country: Qatar
- Topics: Art,Arts/Culture/Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA0095ENQ0K5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A new online photography project aims to highlight Qatar's 'unseen' workers by showing off their fashion style.
The "DohaFashionFridays" is the brain child of Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese political cartoonist and graphic designer living in Doha.
Each Friday waves of migrant workers make their way to certain locations around Doha to relax and mingle after a week of hard work.
Albaih captures workers as they go out dressed in their best outfits on their only day off. Later he posts the pictures with a brief description on the social networking platform Instagram.
He said with the influx of migrant workers to Qatar in recent years, a sub society has emerged of thousands of labourers who are building the country, but remain unseen.
They live on the city outskirts and people only see them in their blue jumpsuits getting on and off their buses at the end of their work day.
"I am trying to explore the people behind those blue jumpsuits, because they are people. They are not just numbers, you know? So, through fashion -- their fashion, I know their stories. So, basically what I am trying to create is a kind of a mix of 'Humans of New York' blog that tells stories about people and a fashion blog, a street fashion blog, that stops people in the street and takes a picture of them and tell them why are you wearing what you are wearing?" Albaih said.
On Fridays he goes to Doha's waterfront, a popular hangout location for workers on weekends. If he likes the way someone is dressed, he approaches them to start a conversation.
Albaih said he doesn't want to make this a project that looks down on workers, rather a project that involves workers and other people in conversations.
His posts include a picture of workers along with a short paragraph that gives their name, age and fashion style.
"This is not going to be a show of people who are not supposed to be trendy but look trendy. It's about knowing them and knowing about their fashion. Even though it's a small thing, but it really matters and if it doesn't matter, they wouldn't really make that effort, you know? So, I started going out and basically I developed kind of, you know, this with the experience, I developed a kind of an approach to get them into the project, to be part of the project, not to be the project," he said.
Qatar came under scrutiny for the status of migrant workers after winning the bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. Albaih said with all the negative media about Qatar that followed, the focus was on one side only of the workers' lives. Through his photography project he wants to celebrate workers as individuals.
"They look like the opposite of what media sometimes make them to be, to this victimization. So, again, of course there are a lot of things wrong, but this is a way of telling their stories, without just in a whole everything is wrong, this whole thing is wrong. This is one side, but the other side is also to celebrate individualism -- to celebrate them. To celebrate who they are and that effort that they make to show who they are, even if it's one day a week", Albaih said.
Albaih said most of the workers he met welcomed the idea. He hopes that the idea will catch on and others will follow suit.
He said he sees himself as a facilitator who can encourage conversation among different people through the medium of fashion.
"The idea is to make this into a social project. So, any person who is interested in fashion, a lot of people reached out to me here in Qatar, so if you are a fashion blogger and if you are a fashion photographer, you can actually go out, talk, meet people....I want to curate and create a society that talks to each other," he said.
Recently, Albaih met a young Nepali electrician who likes fashion and speaks fluent English. Next month he will team up with Albaih to photograph and facilitate conversations with workers who cannot speak English. This is one way of making the workers part of the project, Albaih said.
The project was launched last November on Instagram and the Sudanese cartoonist is hopeful it will generate a change in attitudes, encouraging the community to come together.
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