You only need to meet Abdulrahman Al Muftah once to understand why he does the things he does.
This Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) MFA in Design graduate radiates gentleness, inner peace, and a self-effacing sense of humor.
Throw in a deep understanding of nature and the environment, and you have a designer who is committed to conserving the earth’s natural resources.
Al Muftah believes in slow, sustainable creativity and growth. It is an approach to life that he’s been nurturing for a while – his MFA thesis was about Islamic pre-prayer rituals specific to the region, inspired by traditional Qatari remedies and wellness practices.
Hence, in 2018, when the idea to create a range of wellness products came to his mind, it was inevitable that he would incorporate his philosophy of living in harmony with nature into it. Thus was born ‘Allum’.
“Allum is a skincare brand that we launched in February 2023 with the mission to deliver wellness products for the body, mind and soul. I researched, developed and came up with the concept. It is manufactured and tested in a lab following stringent cruelty-free ethical practices,” says Al Muftah.
The development of the wellness range stayed true to Al Muftah’s philosophy of slow growth.
He explains, “It took a full five years of research and development for ‘The Nourishing Elixir’, Allum’s inaugural product, to be launched. The elixir is vegan, fast-absorbing and rejuvenating with a natural oil formula inspired by the Arabian Peninsula where traditional beauty practices using naturally sourced ingredients have been passed down from generation to generation.”
At a recent retreat held at the Zulal Wellness Resort, he unveiled Allum’s “slow beauty” philosophy, introducing guests to the brand’s approach to eco-friendly, nature-based self-care.
With the product launched for sale, Al Muftah is currently exploring new avenues to apply his ethos. He used the residency program at the Fire Station Museum and gallery to delve into the neolithic period of Qatar, which was characterized by the craft of stone carving.
Al Muftah focused on limestone that is abundant in Qatar, producing works that challenged the norm, yet were surprisingly relatable in concept. He gathered rocks from various locations across Qatar, aesthetically sculpted them into rough-hewn shapes and then intentionally germinated seeds on their surfaces. The result was a carpet of live greenery growing out of an art piece.
When the greenery eventually perished, the artworks were left with a residue that added an aged quality to the pieces, serving as a reminder of the transformative process of nature.
He says, “The residency at Fire Station provided an ideal platform for me to explore my concepts about the intersection of art and design in the context of Qatar's neolithic heritage. By utilizing limestone and incorporating elements of nature, I wanted to make people think beyond the conventional and take a step forward – or in this case, groundward – to understand sustainability in design, and to respect Nature as the ultimate artist and designer.”
Yet another avenue he has chosen is research in clay. Though it is rare to find clay in arid areas with no riverbeds, such as Qatar, Al Muftah discovered that the rock formations in the country’s Zekreet peninsula contain layers of clay.
Recently he organized an exhibition titled “Wild Clay: An Open Lab” at Heenat Al Salma, an eco-farm on the outskirts of Doha, where he was also one of the first residents of the farm’s residency program. The exhibition showcased the entire process of experimentation and the results of his research with clay including a clay mask, clay crayons for coloring and uses of clay in agriculture.
The intrepid conservationist has also taken part in the latest edition of the Earthna Summit, where he gave a speech about clay and its versatile uses. (Earthna is a non-profit policy research and advocacy center established by Qatar Foundation (QF) to provide a holistic view of environmental, social and economic prosperity.)
When asked about the immediate future, Al Muftah says he will continue his “conversations with nature”, as he calls his many explorations and research. As he says this, he is quick to point out the significance of public involvement.
“I’m keen to share my work and investigations with the community, as my creative process is tied to the natural environment of Qatar. The details and findings of my clay journey can be found in an online book. People can also read more about my research and interests by visiting @allumwellness and www.abdulrahmanalmuftah.com,” says this VCUarts Qatar alumnus.
For more information about VCUarts Qatar, visit qatar.vcu.edu
About Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar
Established in 1998 through a partnership with Qatar Foundation, VCUarts Qatar is the international branch campus of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, a top-ranked art and design school in Richmond, Virginia in the United States. VCUarts Qatar offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design, interior design, and painting and printmaking, a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in design. A vibrant community with global reach, VCUarts promises to instill in students a lifelong passion for education and the arts.
Qatar Foundation – Unlocking Human Potential
Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) is a non-profit organization that supports Qatar on its journey to becoming a diversified and sustainable economy. QF strives to serve the people of Qatar and beyond by providing specialized programs across its innovation-focused ecosystem of education, research and development, and community development. QF is also creating a multidisciplinary innovation hub in Qatar, where homegrown researchers are working to address local and global challenges. By promoting a culture of lifelong learning and fostering social engagement through programs that embody Qatari culture, QF is committed to empowering the local community and contributing to a better world for all.