The Keralite connoisseur who knitted art with entrepreneurship in Doha

Eleyah had pursued graphic designing for better job prospects, burying her fondness for art. (Right) one of her works.

Despite her passion for art, Elizabeth Zachariah, better known as Eleyah, never attended an art school.

But the ‘Doha Artist Collective’ founded by Eleyah is gaining attention and love from art enthusiasts of Qatar.

Hailing from Kochi but residing in Doha, Eleyah pursued graphic designing for better job prospects, burying her fondness for art.

She did full-time and part-time jobs, but quit those too to spend more time with family. But art made a dramatic re-entry into her life in the form of a collective.

Doha Artist Collective members at an exhibition

“I pushed myself from within and polished skills over years. Being a child, I wanted to pursue art but couldn't even think of convincing my parents 20 years back. Art, for a majority, is just a hobby and not a profession,” said Eleyah.

The turning point

Life took a U-turn when she visited an art workshop during a holiday trip to the UK. Her first painting featured her boarding school at Ooty. And it brought her accolades.

“That was when I, along with a friend, thought of starting a collective in Doha where there are several other groups for cooking, gardening and similar activities. A few close friends joined and we started to sketch at least once a week. Our main goal was to motivate each other to create art,” recalled Eleyah.

One of Eleyah's paintings

This happened five years ago. Now, the collective has over 20 active members.

When she felt the collective was gaining traction, she designed a logo and launched an Instagram page.

This appealed to many more artists, some of them professionals, who all spent their mornings sketching together at a cafe.

A combo image of Eleyah's works

They even took part in a group exhibition, a milestone in Doha Artist Collective’s fabulous journey.

“Managing the collective and my young children was quite tiring at beginning as I didn't opt to take them to daycare centres. But the schedule was flexible and I got great support from my fellow artists. Now that my kids are more independent, things are fine,” she added.

Inherited the spirit of entrepreneurship
Eleyah comes from a well-known entrepreneur family based in Kochi. Her father John Paul Kuttukaran is the owner of Popular Vehicles and Services Ltd. Her brother and other relatives are also into the same business. “My father was left with no choices in life than taking up family business. But he made sure that we didn't end up in the same boat. He strongly believes that inner drive pushes one to business. Thus, we were encouraged to follow our passion,” she said.

Eleyah's husband hails from Kottayam and works with the World Cup team in Qatar.

Eleyah with her husband Zachariah and children Jay and Aimee

They have two children.

“They are all happy that I finally found my way but starting a group at Doha was difficult due to lack of network. It would have been much easier here in Kerala with my family's support,” she added.

Life after the pandemic

Eleyah with co-artists at their workspace

Pandemic period was initially tough for the collective. “Like others, we were also stuck at homes. But after a month's gap, we restarted our activities online. We were trying to support each other and get them out of the art block. The situation has changed and Qatar is slowly reopening. We now conduct physical meetings,” said Eleyah in delight.

The collective became a hotspot through Instagram in the past two years.

Eleyah painting
One of Eleyah's works

“Instagram is an open space and it helps to get connected with the world at large. I get commissioned works from all around the globe and have already sent works to London, Canada, Slovakia, New Zealand and Poland. My preferred category is architecture-inspired water colour paintings,” said Eleyah, who also teaches art virtually to students from different parts of the world.

Straight from the heart

“I consider drawing as a language. Back when no languages were developed, people must have used drawings to communicate. It also urges one to look around and observe things carefully,” said Eleyah.

It took years for her to go after art and slowly develop it into an income-generating activity.

For women who prioritise family over their career or talent, Eleyah is a true inspiration.

Eleyah with her fellow artists.

“I was privileged enough to get external support of all means to carry out my interest. This won't be the same for everyone. Following one's passion might be a luxury for some and for others it might involve struggles. Either of that, keep in mind to place you as an individual first. Everything else will follow,” Eleyah said.

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