QAIC’s Expressions Art & Culture Talk series features a variety of personalities, artists, and creatives who have lived or worked in the Arab and Islamic World and whose works were inspired and influenced by these cultures and people.

An art and culture talk, Expressions aims to highlight the intersections and cultural connections that tie the American, Qatari, and in general the people of the Arab and Islamic World through the act of storytelling. Creatives and cultural experts are invited to speak about their unique endeavors and artistic work, showcasing how they were inspired by the Arab and Islamic World as a region, culture,  and society.

Whether in filmmaking, literature, fashion design, or music, speakers will delve into presentations and conversations that express their artistic journey and experience in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The Expression Art & Culture Talks Series is a recurring public creative dialogue. The guest speakers share their own experiences and reflections, followed by questions and answers from the audience.


On January 28th, the Qatar-America Institute hosted Houstonian and renowned Arabian breeder, Michael Byatt, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.



About Michael Byatt

Michael Byatt is an internationally known Arabian horse breeder and rider who helped develop the incomparable Arabians at Qatar’s Al Shaqab Equestrian Center, which has influenced breeding world-wide. Established in 1992, Al Shaqab has bred seven World Champion stallions, who have flown regularly between Qatar, Europe, and the United States, living for many years in New Ulm, Texas.

On June 17, the Qatar-America Institute hosted architectural author Phillip Jodidio in Chicago for an Expressions Artist Talk centered around Contemporary Architecture in Qatar.





About Philip Jodidio

Philip Jodidio was born in Orange, New Jersey. He attended Harvard College (AB 1976) before moving to Paris where he became the Editor in Chief of Connaissance des Arts, the widest circulation art monthly in France. He remained there until 2002 when he moved to Lausanne, Switzerland. Philip Jodidio is the author of more than 100 books published by Taschen, Rizzoli, Thames & Hudson, Prestel and others.

His latest book on the new National Museum of Qatar was recently published by Thames & Hudson. Philip Jodidio has also worked extensively for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva, editing five books about historic preservation work in Muslim cities such as Cairo and Kabul. The newest volume in this series, about Lahore, will be published by Prestel at the end of this year.

On October 22, 2018, the Qatar-America Institute hosted chef and author Anissa Helou for its Expressions Artist Talk in Washington, DC. Ms. Helou spoke about the history and influences of Middle Eastern cuisine and foods from the rest of the Islamic World.





About Anissa Helou

Anissa Helou is a world-renowned chef, food writer, journalist, broadcaster, consultant and blogger focusing on the cuisines and culinary heritage of the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. Ms. Helou is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks with her first being “Lebanese Cuisine,” capturing her roots as the daughter of a Syrian father and Lebanese mother. In 2013, Anissa was featured in the Arabian Business Magazine’s list of “100 Most Powerful Arab Women” and on the “500 Most Influential Arabs.” Lebanese Cuisine was followed by Street Café Morocco, Mediterranean Street Food, The Fifth Quarter, and Modern Mezze. Her most recent publication, Feast: The Food of the Islamic World, was published to great acclaim by Ecco in May 2018.

On September 18, 2018, the Qatar-America Institute hosted the former chair of the Fashion Design department of Virginia Commonwealth University – Qatar (VCU-Q), Sandra Bell Wilkins, for a discussion on the history of fashion in the Middle East and the intersection between the functionality of fashion and regional culture. Ms. Wilkins also commented on her personal experiences teaching in Qatar, highlighting the various changes that Qatari society has experienced during her 20 years teaching at Education City.




About Sandra Bell Wilkins

Sandra Bell Wilkins has been creating clothing for profit since the age of nine. Fashion design was deemed a creative and lucrative hobby for a young woman but everyone thought that music would provide a respectable future and it was music that provided a scholarship to University. When Sandra applied and ultimately arrived at University there was no question in her mind that Fashion was her ultimate passion. After graduation from VCU in 1968, she freelanced in LA and worked as a sales manager for Bullock’s of Southern California to pay the bills. In 1977 she returned to her alma mater as a full-time graduate and teaching assistant in the Theatre Department and in 1978b became a full-time instructor in the Department of Fashion, promoted to assistant professor in 1985 and tenured professor in 1992. In 1990 Sandra ended her part-time pursuits of a MFA in Costume Design with only 8 credits and a thesis in the way of completion but vowed to resume her studies in the not so distant future.

In 1992 she was named interim chair of the VCU Fashion Department and remained in that position until 1996. It was that same year that Sandra traveled to Zimbabwe on a USAID grant to teach, consult and develop Fashion Programs for technical schools in Southern Africa, and in the fall semester of 1999 traveled to Qatar to head the Fashion program in the Shaqab College of Design Arts. In 2002 Shaqab College officially became VCUQatar and in 2005, Sandra became the Chair of the Fashion Department.

On July 18, 2018, the Qatar-America Institute hosted Dr. Mohana Rajakumar for a talk on life as an American writer living in Qatar, how she went from being an academic to a writer, and what it is like to write romance novels in the Middle East. From authors to filmmakers, Arabian-horse breeders to modern art curators, the Expressions series is a mosaic of American creatives whose works are influenced and inspired by the state of Qatar.





About Mohana Rajakumar

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.

Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011.

Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Domestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.