Six design projects by students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar


Dezeen School Shows:  a project critiquing orientalism through textiles is included in Dezeen’s latest school show by students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.

Also included is a project exploring home decor made from a biomaterial containing shells and an exhibition celebrating Brazilian culture and music.


Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University
School: School of Arts
Course: Master of Fine Arts Degree in Design
Tutors: Rab McClure, Marco Bruno, Giovanni Innella, Reema Abu Hassan, Stella Colaleo, Yasmeen Suleiman, Michael Wirtz, Robert Bianchi and Hadeer Omar

School statement:

“The MFA in Design program is interdisciplinary because designers face complex problems that defy easy categorisation.

“Increasingly, artists and designers need to navigate between and blend disciplines, maximising resources and working adaptively to create new environments, visuals, messaging and artefacts.

“Our full-time, two-year graduate program trains students to understand clients, collaborators and design challenges in original and authentic ways.

“The program combines aspects of fine arts studio practice, digital craft, architecture, graphic, fashion and product design, thereby providing a hybridised education.

“Our program’s strength lies in its ability to support each student’s unique interests, providing a customised educational experience tailored to the needs of each individual.


A person's hand handling a translucent pink circular object, lit up from light underneath.

Zaytouna: Sowing Palestinian Stories, Cultivating Connections by Naima Monif Almajdobah

“Zaytouna explores the under-researched topic of the relationship between the olive tree and uprooted Palestinians, revealing a rich tapestry of narratives that encompass the everlasting relationship between a land and its people.

“The resulting interactive archival installation consists of two parts: audio recordings that capture memories and voices of Palestinians in the diaspora and visuals that represent the storytellers’ places of origin, emphasising the connection between memories, voices and narratives.

“This project highlights the olive tree’s physical and metaphorical significance to Palestinian people in the diaspora and provides a compelling example of cultural preservation for endangered peoples in contexts well beyond Palestine.”

Student: Naima Monif Almajdobah
Course: Master of Fine Arts in Design
Email: almajdobahnm[at]vcu.edu


A person walking past a concrete structure with black circles on it, in a room that is lit in purple, blue and pink colours.

Tchu Tcha Tcha: The Transformative Role of Funk by Adriane De Souza

“Cultural disconnection and homesickness are part of expatriate life.

“My research investigates the transformative power of Brazilian funk, which, for me, evokes restorative memories of home and life in Rio de Janeiro.

“Originating in North America, funk made an exciting leap and found a new home in Brazil, particularly in Rio de Janeiro.

“Transplanted again to Qatar, this work celebrates the migration of funk through a combination of still images, concrete blocks and sound, reflecting both Brazilian and Qatari elements and influences.

“The resulting exhibition offers a cultural translation of funk in Doha, showcasing its vitality, adaptability and transformative ability to create community through music.”

Student: Adriane De Souza
Course: Master of Fine Arts in Design
Email: adriane.aghata[at]gmail.com


A close up perspective of a silver and green machine made of metal.

Unfolding Remembrance: Folding Islamic Principles into Pondering Machine by Hind Al Saad

“Though produced in separate eras, Islamic art and computational art are connected by underlying structures: arithmetic, harmony and the concept of the infinite.

“Islamic developments in knowledge, like algebra, have contributed to mathematics and mechanics – the building blocks of contemporary technology.

“My creative practice constructs machines as an act of worship (‘ibadah), folding Islamic principles into the medium of computation.

“Selected verses from the Quran are used as the core of each automaton (self-operating machine), their computational cycles transformed into mechanical movements, unfolding the meanings of each verse.

“The body of work presents an alternative perspective on our world’s invisible elements, which inspires moments of intentional presence and ponderation.”

Student: Hind Al Saad
Course: Master of Fine Arts in Design
Email: alkuwarihg[at]vcu.edu


A series of four framed prints on a white wall, with mannequins wearing white outfits in front.

Hijabi Superheroes and the Power of Representation by Moom Thahinah

“As a Hijabi woman, I am often misrepresented by stereotypical narratives in Western media that obscure my individuality and agency.

“My thesis addresses the misrepresentation of Hijabi women, challenging audience perceptions and empowering Hijabi women to confront these narratives.

“Informed by design and media discourse, I developed a narrative and Hijabi superhero character appropriating tropes of Western comic books.

“The resulting research combines two outcomes: a print-based narrative and a transformative garment.

“Print media is used to address the lack of Hijabi representation in Western comics, while a functional super-abaya transforms the character into a superhero–bridging the gap between misrepresenting narratives and lived realities.”

Student: Moom Thahinah
Course: Master of Fine Arts in Design
Email: thahinahm[at]vcu.edu


Several white lamps hanging from a ceiling, reflecting onto a brown wooden floor in a room with white walls.

Capiz Reborn: Preserving and Enhancing Traditional Philippine Shellcraft by Destarte Prieto

“Capiz shell is a thin, translucent material that comes from a mollusc found in the Philippine Sea.

“Traditionally, capiz shells were made into window panes and home decor.

“Today, the influx of cheap, mass-produced merchandise threatens the capiz shell industry.

“To encourage renewed interest and sustainable revival of this long-standing industry, my research explored reconstituting cast-off bits and shell trimmings to form a new capiz biomaterial.”

Student: Destarte Prieto
Course: Master of Fine Arts in Design
Email: prietod[at]vcu.edu


Two tapestries hanging on a white wall, black with yellow, white, green and red embroidery on them.

The Incoherence of Orientalists by Sarah Alafifi

“Orientalism, the Western notion of fetishising cultures, epitomises the underlying structures of colonialism and imperialism, infiltrating everyday life and eroding the moral fabric of Islamic society.

“This thesis analyses colonial control through the exercise of political power and the production of knowledge, investigating key events related to Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and the narratives of resistance that emerged in opposition to it.

“Through the lens of this 18th-century expedition, the study examines how Western knowledge systematically contributed to the dismantling of Islamic systems of knowledge.

“Select phrases from Colonial-era printed proclamations are extracted and embroidered into a two-part series of symbolic Sitarahs – textiles ritually placed at the door of the Kaaba.

“As a visual, critical response to orientalism, the work engenders an Arabic intellectual culture that prioritises intrinsic Arab Islamic values, fostering a post-orientalist society.”

Student: Sarah Alafifi
Course: Master of Fine Arts in Design
Email: sz.alafifi[at]gmail.com

Partnership content

This school show is a partnership between Dezeen and Virginia Commonwealth University. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.



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