empowering narratives in the middle east: the establishment of a comics lab at vcuarts qatar
By Comics Lab2023
The Comics Lab, led by Mike Wirtz and Leland Hill, presented their "Empowering Narratives in the Middle East: The Establishment of a Comics Lab at VCUarts Qatar" at the International Comics Arts Forum in Vancouver, Canada.
In the past decade, a culture of comic and sequential art has emerged in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although the region has a history of cartoon-based art, this more recent trend is toward comic and sequential art geared specifically toward adults. Many of these pieces of art and the associated publications they appear in are seen as responses to the power structures of the societies they are created within. In some countries, authors, artists, and publishers have been fined or jailed for creating work that challenges state authority or morality. In 2021, the VCUarts Qatar Art and Design Library, the library of the Qatar campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, decided to establish a dedicated Comics Lab to foster further exploration within the medium - particularly as it relates to the region. Although the Lab is currently building its resources to meet the research and pedagogical needs of the school, it has also embarked on a second phase of its conception - one of coordinating the dissemination of comic and sequential art from the region. In adhering to the greater VCU Libraries’ vision that a library should be a producer as well as a collector of information, the Comics Lab is currently seeking funding to purchase and publish work produced in the region.