Wafika Sultan Saif Al-Essa is a well-known figure in Qatar’s art scene, having established herself as the country’s first professional Qatari visual artist in the 1970s. With a focus on painting and plastics, Al-Essa is widely regarded as the pioneer of modern art in Qatar. Her contributions to the development of contemporary art in the country have been significant, and she has inspired many aspiring artists to follow in her footsteps.
Over the years, Al-Essa’s work has been showcased in numerous exhibitions and galleries in Qatar and around the world. Her unique style and approach to art have earned her a loyal following and garnered critical acclaim from both local and international audiences. Through her art, Al-Essa has been able to explore important issues related to identity, culture, and society, and her work continues to inspire and challenge viewers to this day.
Wafika Al-Essa was born in 1952 in Manama, Bahrain, and her enthusiasm for art earned scholarship from the Qatari government, when art was not usually linked with women in the region. Armed with her scholarship, she set off for Cairo, Egypt, where she studied at the Helwan University (it was known as the Cairo University at that time) Faculty of Fine Arts in the bustling city’s Zamalek district, where she chose Interior Design as her major. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Art in 1975.
She became a group of artists who incorporated painting in Qatari society and built relationships between artists, intellectuals and other social groups.
When she paired her practice as a visual artist with her major, degree and experience with interior designing. She found that she could improve and analyze through the two mediums.
Wafika Al-Essa gives special attention to detail and has the special capacity of weaving beautiful stories through her art. Her art depicts Qatari old stories, natural history, proverbs and songs, and she frequently titles her art after them. She uses her art to investigate the relationships between womens and men, and questions in genre. Her paintings frequently show women in groups and everyday life with a progressive perspective. When you see her calligraphy, you can see that her style is influenced by Islam. When she started plastic arts, the Qatari society had moderate perspectives when it came to this type of art, but with time it became more accepted.
For Wafika Al-Essa, art is a passion and since 1972, she has regularly been interested in various art exhibitions in Qatar and around the world. She had her first exhibition in Doha in 1974. In 1976, she was important for the second Arab Artists Federation exhibition in Morocco. She was also in Kuwait as a part of the 5th and 6th exhibition of Arab Artists. In 1978, she went to the Qatari Art Exhibition in Paris-London and, in 1979, but this time in Tunis. When the Qatari Fine Arts Society was established in 1980, she became a part of it and also went to its exhibitions in 1981 and 1982.
Wafika Al-Essa’s works have travelled the world, as well as been shown in her local country. In 2011, her arts works were placed on display at the Mathaf: Museum of Modern Art. Out of 23 artists, she was one of 2nd women artists in the groups, whose work was exhibited. Later, her works of art were permanently put on display in Mathaf.
In 2014, Wafika Al-Essa was given the Arab’s Woman Award for the best Qatari artist.
Wafika Al-Essa has also worked as a production designer for Qatar TV – where she designed and executed backdrops for local programs giving them a Qatari character – and also for the Qatari government office in Cairo.
Although art remains her main passion and she keeps on painting, she is also the owner of a private consultancy business for architecture and design, and keeps on being a motivation for emerging artists, particularly female ones, who are looking to pursue their passion in art and carve a niche for themselves in the world of art.