A LOT HAS BEEN GOING ON WITH PROJECT BUT FIRST CAN YOU TELL ME HOW DO YOU DEFINE AL MASAHA AL AMENA AND HOW IT GOT STARTED?
It started as a project between my friend and I and at the beginning we wanted it to be a fashion concept but when we discovered the expenses of that, we were still college students and our allowances, which weren’t a lot, did not allow us to do that. So we began making t-shirts, stickers, and patches that are very casual and got the message through. At one point it was just me so I scraped everything we had done earlier and got a fresh start. I asked for the help of three friends and we changed the logo into the current one and from then on I started sending out my ideas to graphic designers and artists who would turn the concepts into artwork.
With that, Al Masaha Al Amena became an extension of myself that is very public. It is anything I want to do but in the public eye. At least this is what it is to me. I don’t know how other people view it, maybe they call it a brand, but I want to make things that channel people who share my interests to be able to express themselves freely through the mediums Al Masaha Al Amena is putting out.
I GUESS THAT IDEA IS TIED TO THE SHIRTS YOU PRODUCED AND GOT ALI EL SHEHABI TO PHOTOGRAPH YOUNG ADULTS WEARING THEM AROUND THE U.A.E SO DO THOSE IDEAS COME FROM EVERYDAY OBSERVATIONS OR DIGGING THROUGH YOUR MEMORIES AND IDENTITY?
Both. I am an Emirati and I am a girl, so this is my life and these words you see on the shirts or the Muse section of Al Masaha Al Amena stem from what is happening right now and the past. They usually start as statements that I have always wanted to say or thoughts that you have at the back of your head that you want to scream at people. I would note them down as a phrase or a sketch. Sometimes the sketch comes in later when the concept is being completed with the help of designers, as I am not an artist, which is very important to point out, because I wouldn’t be able to bring this to life without the friends and people who have put in the effort to make something out of my ideas.
I wanted something very simple for the shirts but would also engage with the labels put on women in the Middle East so the first two were “المرأة” and “عذراء” written in arabic calligraphy. I chose these words because they are everyday words we use that. We are also obsessed with, how to be a women, or if she is a virgin or not, as if her whole life is about that. Funny thing is a lot of dads came up to me during MEFCC saying “Oh my god, my daughter’s name is عذراء, can I get a shirt.”
WHEN ANYONE WEARS THESE SHIRTS THEY CARRY THE WORDS AROUND IS SUCH AN ORDINARY OR PROFOUND WAY, EVEN SIMULTANEOUSLY, THROUGH THEIR WALK AND THEIR EXPRESSIONS. IT IS SIMILAR TO HOW OUR CULTURE HAS OVERUSED THEM AND WE END UP GAUGING THESE TABOO TOPICS THROUGH SARCASM AND SERIOUSNESS AT THE SAME TIME TO COMPREHEND WHAT THEY MEAN TO US IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.
Definitely, that is why MEFCC was interesting; I got to see how people are engaging with Al Masaha Al Amena in the moment. Some didn’t like it and said asked me why I was doing this, and that it was very aggressive, others were very supportive.
It is not just about aesthetics, people can use them to express themselves. It’s there just like with other fashion products that we use to show the world who we are on a first impression, just by looking at us. It’s awesome because these things help me get across my way of thinking with just a look. When I go shopping I always look for things that allow me to show a side of myself.
THAT IS WHAT MAKES THOSE WORDS WORK, YOU GET ALL THE REACTIONS THAT THEY HAVE ENCOMPASSED THROUGHOUT THE YEARS. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU PLACE THEM IN SETTINGS THAT UNSETTLE THEM AND SHIFT THE FOCUS ONLY ON TO THE WORDS SUCH AS SHIRTS OR YOUR PASTEL COLORED IMAGES. YOUR WORK ALSO INCORPORATES A LOT OF WHAT YOU CALL MUSES, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I love strong women that aren’t afraid to feel things and be emotional such as Yasmine Hamdan and Asmahan. Men too, like Khalil Gibran, he is such a gentle sensitive creature and that is so rare nowadays. People don’t want to show others that we are human and vulnerable.
WITH ALI’S STYLE, THE PHOTOGRAPHS REALLY BROUGHT OUT WHAT THE SHIRTS ARE TRYING TO SAY. HOW DO YOU PICK YOUR COLLABORATORS, ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU GIVE OUT YOUR IDEA IN A VERY RAW FORM.
Ali is an amazing artist. I tend to look at their other work and see if my concept vibes with it. If it matches the idea, even if they have a different take on it than their previous works, in the end it will always have some of me in it through all the talks we have and where the concepts originate from. I think if I was doing what I was doing and the topics weren’t being talked about in a separate manner such as feminism and street art, the shirts, stickers, and all would not be clearly understood or pushed for as much.
Also collaborations give me so much access to do what I want with a concept and that is what excited me at first because I had this thing and I wanted to do so much with it. I like working with new and more people