Installation and performance
Rahal was the result of 3 weeks of research, conceptual development and preparation via email and telephone between Carolyn Henne and students in Doha, Qatar at VCU School of the Arts in Qatar (VCU-Q). One week was spent realizing the piece in Doha. At the end of which was the performance and reception.
The inflatable camper-trailer was one component of a larger installation/performance which was completed in collaboration with 21 students at VCU-Q. The image is a hybrid of an ancient slave ship and a funky retrofitted vintage camper-trailer. The trailer would typically be pulled by an automobile, but now it is born along by anonymous rowers.
In spite of obvious political interpretations of this work, this was an image that embraced our cultures’ similarities rather than differences. Prior to great oil wealth of the sixties, the Qatari were somewhat nomadic and scraped their living together principally from pearl diving. They relied on trade, and hieroglyphs in Qatar document the regular arrival of slave ships. Now, “camping” is an exotic and luxurious outing and their pearls are imported from abroad. As one student observed, camping allows us to carry our culture with us.
The anonymity of the oarsmen and the ghostliness of the inflatable - the metaphorical lone voyager - led us to discuss ideas about fate and the afterlife. This resulted in the decision to choose Rahal as the title for the piece - referring to the adventurous traveler. The music played for the performance was O’Yamal, an ancient seafaring lament sung to instill bravery in the hearts of the pearl divers so they will return safely.
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