Through the lens of Oman’s francophones

On the occasion of the French Oman Week, a photographic exhibition was opened on Tuesday evening at the Centre Franco-Omanais by the Ambassador of France to Oman, Renaud Salins, and the Director of the Cabinet Minister in Charge of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Awad al Hassan. ‘Oman, seen by Francophones who live there’ shows Oman in various facets, illustrates the dynamism and diversity of Francophone expressions since, of these 23 images, 14 different nationalities are represented by the photographers.

With over a 100 submissions, 33 adults and 71 students participating, the contest was launched by the CFO at the end of 2017. This idea was conceived when the embassy and the CFO wanted to celebrate Francophones — the community in Oman that speak, learn or know the French language.
Agnes Bourgeois al Toki, one of the brains behind this initiative and a judge for the contest said, “This wasn’t just for those who speak fluent French but anybody who knows a single word like Bonjour is a part of the community. This contest was for anybody who wanted to be a part of the community and interested. Everybody was allowed to join.”
The theme of the evening exhibited Oman, as seen through the eyes of those that live here, especially francophones celebrating the historic, cultural and economic relations between The Sultanate of Oman and the République française.
The contest had two groups participating, one was the younger group of students and scholars and the other was the “adult” group which was open to all public.
A jury of five, chaired by Ahmed Abdullah al Busaidi, the director of the Omani Photography Society, evaluated and selected the 23 images that make up the current exhibition.
The individual judges came with a unique perception other than the expertise of the professional and talented photographers from The photographic society of Oman.
Whilst the professionals saw the quality of light, the angles and the more technical aspects of a good photograph, the others pitched in their thoughts on the creativity, visuals and aesthetics of the photographs.
For Agnes, it was about the message the photograph intended to share about Oman, she said, “we all had our own ideas and perspectives and brought together, we discussed and came to the decision of the finalists and the winners from each category.”
The process of selecting the winners was a long process, it started with every individual judge selecting 15 pictures that they liked best from each category. Once the 30 pictures from each judge were selected, the team of judges headed by Ahmed Abdullah al Busaidi, the director of the PSO, voted for every photograph.
To qualify for the finals, the photographs were rated out of 5 and those with an average vote of 3 and above then went on to the next round. So all the photographs displayed at the exhibition had received more than 3 votes.
Some of the students that participated were from the The International School of Choueifat, representing the school was Azza Bustami, Head of French Department.
Supporting her students and their efforts along with the success of their talented photography making it to the finals and being displayed at the Centre Franco-Omanias shared her excitement, she said, “I would like to thank the Centre Franco-Omanias for hosting events like this, especially celebrating the Francophones living in Oman. Also, would like to thank the efforts of the school to promote such activities and motivate their students to get involved in these extracurriculars. I would also like to applaud the efforts taken by the students and their commitment and hard work, congratulations to all the finalists and winners of this photography exhibition!”
The Centre Franco-Omanais, an institution under the double supervision of the French Embassy in Oman and the Omani Ministry of Education, which is the main centre for teaching the French language in Oman, regularly offers many cultural activities.
Francophones themselves, Younis al Magrafi and Salim al Ghefeili were visitors at the exhibition and shared their interest in both the French language and the exhibition.
Younis, currently learning French said, “I’m very glad to attend this exhibition, Centre Franco-Omanias which is about the Francophone week all over the globe, and it’s a new concept in Oman, where we learn about the French culture, language at the moment I am studying French and it is very important and interesting to learn about different things related to the language and the culture of the French people be it their food, art or even music. I’m currently learning French because it will not only be an added skill but to me, it is a very nice language. I have been to France several times and it was high time that I learned the language.”
Also present was his teacher, Salim who is fluent in the French language and has spent time in France training and learning the language and culture better.
He shares, “I am a French teacher and seeing an exhibition like this is very exciting. It is very important because before the French language wasn’t that widespread in Oman but now it has started to gain momentum and popularity. We are very happy to be here, As an Omani, I am very happy to see the participants view of Oman through a lens. To me, it is extremely important to give chances to expats, tourists and others to express their vision of Oman with us.”
The exhibition can be viewed at the Centre Franco-Omanais until April 12, 2018.