School & A Scholarship To England

1952/53 marked Tareqs final year at the secondary school of Al-Mubarakiya. By this stage in his school career, his artistic talent had been noticed by two of his tutors, Mu’jib Al-Dosari, the first Kuwaiti to study art abroad in Cairo and Sharif Al-Khadra, a Palestinian arts & crafts teacher. Al-Dosari was one of the few Kuwaiti artists at the time and had established himself as the painter of the sets for drama productions at Al-Mubarakiya school. This particular school year included a national art exhibition, and Tareq was invited to participate. The competition was a real milestone in Kuwait, and Tareq displayed several of his works, ultimately winning first prize. This was a time of significant change in Kuwait, and the first prize was a scholarship to study art in England. Tareq became the first Kuwaiti to be awarded a full scholarship to study art in the West. In July 1953, Tareq set off for the United Kingdom, stopping in Baghdad, Beirut and Rome on the way to London, where he landed on the 11th of July. Upon his arrival, he made his way to the Kuwait Educational Office in London, which at the time, was run by an Englishman, Andrew Jackson.

Tareq was transported from the harsh desert environment of Kuwait, with its small humble houses, to the lush green English countryside and a pseudo-Victorian mansion called Brazier’s Park. He spent six months working on his English at the School of Integrative Social Research. Upon arrival in England, Tareq had struggled to understand the English accent as he had learnt most of his English from Indian, Egyptian and Palestinian teachers, whose accents were all he had known. At Brazier’s Park, he didn’t just learn English, of course; he also learnt about English culture and was surrounded by many interesting people, including artists, writers, musicians and sociologists, becoming an anglophile from the very beginning, having a natural affinity with British culture. While many found the British weather miserable, he loved it and often walked through the surrounding woods in the drizzling rain. His tutors, inspired by his enthusiasm, took a personal interest in him and took him to London to see the great museums and galleries and to Oxford to see Shakespearean plays. It was during these visits that Tareq also discovered artwork by David Roberts, a 19th Century orientalist, and would develop a real admiration of his work. Interestingly, his mentor at this time was Professor Robert Glyn Faithful, who is well known as the father of the famous singer Marianne Faithful.

After his time at Brazier’s Park was complete, Tareq moved on to Eastbourne College of Art, retaining a relationship with Brazier’s for his entire life and welcoming some of his tutors to Kuwait years later. For the next few years at Eastbourne, Tareq studied art and was fortunate to be taught by renowned tutors such as Robert Tavener, a famous printmaker, teaching Tareq the arts of printmaking and lithography. Although he studied painting techniques and the history of primarily Western art, it was through Robert Tavener that Tareq first discovered the high arts of the Islamic world. It was in Eastbourne that Tareq met his future wife, Jehan. They had met in an Italian Café called Notorianni’s that they both frequented, and a year later, in 1955, they married. Their first child, Nur, was born in London the following year and their second, Ziad in 1958. Their third child, Nader, was born after they moved back to Kuwait. Once he had completed his art degree, Tareq and Jehan moved to a village called Clevedon, and he attended the University of Bristol, where he received a certificate in Education. Despite having periods where he suffered from severe knee pain, Tareq would cycle thirteen miles to University and thirteen miles back daily. In fact, as soon as he arrived in England, he took many cycling trips around the country. When it started to get dark, he would sometimes sleep in a park, but on one occasion, he came across a castle, likely St. Briavels castle on the English / Welsh border, which served as a youth hostel. Although it was free to stay, everyone had to do some chores, and his was to peel potatoes. On one of the occasions when he slept on a park bench, he was approached by a police officer who asked him who he was and what he was doing. He replied that he was a student cycling around and that he was from Kuwait, a British protectorate. The policeman nodded approvingly and left.

Painting and photography were skills that Tareq learned and refined during his time in England, developing a particular talent for drawing and oil painting. In later years, during the 1960s and 70s, he often went to the old town of Kuwait, the old shipyards of Doha and the old harbour to paint. In the 1960s, Tareq would even go on to represent Kuwait abroad on several occasions, including a visit to Washington and New York for exhibitions organised by the Kuwaiti embassy. Eventually, his other activities, mainly the museum, would take over his life, and by the late 1970s, he began to paint less. He was not satisfied with being a person who dabbled in painting, so because he could not dedicate real time to it, he stopped altogether. Tareq’s photography, however, was only something that stopped after his health declined in his later years. Ever since the 1950s, he took thousands of photographs of cities, buildings and people. He also extensively photographed old Kuwait as it began to vanish in the wake of rapid modernisation, including grand old houses like Bayt Al-Bader and Bayt Alghanim. Over the years, he developed collections of photographs from almost every Middle Eastern country, Europe and Asia. As well as collecting Islamic art, Tareq would spend much of his life collecting photograph collections, which he often bought at auctions. People would also donate their collections to him. These include Dame Violet Dickson, who was a very prominent figure in Kuwait and a very close friend, Bish Brown, another friend who accumulated an excellent archive of photographs of Kuwait in the 1950s and 60s and even a collection of photographs of Kuwait in the 1940s, which was given to him by the son of an ex-employee of KOC.

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