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I recently did a blog post of the behind the scenes photo shoot for W by Walla look book.  I loved the collection, the detailing and more important that it was designed by a Bahraini designer!  The images below are my picks from this collecton.  The lookbook was photographed by award winning Bahraini photographer Ali Sharaf who is amazing at what he does.  I got the chance to interview Walla, who is a busy mum and a designer to find out more about inspirations, love for her country and a lot more.

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RAsha Yousif

I have always loved and appreciated photography but this photgrapher has gotten all my 5 senses hightened with every image and with every audio slideshow. Her images have so much life behind them; they are ‘not just a photo’. Rasha Yousif is an aspiring travel photographer and has already shot in quite a few countries. She is a dear friend and a member of Bahrain Bloggers. It’s about time she edit the ‘aspiring’ part and give her self the title she well deserves. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fyunka Girl Is Coming to Bahrain!

Fyunka is a fashion accessories line created by Jeddah-based designer Alaa Balkhy.  Fyunka is an Arabic slang word and can be defined as a ribbon bow. Balkhy will be selling her exclusive handbags, tote bags, cosmetic pouches, iPad cases, pillows, and more products. “I’m very excited to showcase my collection at BAB Market in Bahrain,” enthused Alaa Balkhy.

 First launched in June 2011, Fyunka has become hugely popular because of its strong fashion focus and stylish illustrations that most women in the Middle East can relate to.  The Fyunka brand is all about adding a pop of design into one’s wardrobe with quirky quotes, illustrations and a range of colors.

I got to interview Alaa and find out more about her, her inspiration and lots more (interview below).  Don’t miss the chance to meet Alaa this weekend at Bab Market!

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Portrait of a Bedouin- Exhibited at the Sikka Art Fair 2012.

(The illustration is made up entirely of hand drawn dots, a method known as pointillism.)

Artist Bio and Background

Mariam Abbas is a Dubaian, born and bred. With an affinity for drawing and crafts, she enrolled in the school of Architecture & Design at the American University of Sharjah, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication in 2006. Shortly after her graduation, she obtained a license to work from home, and that’s how she ventured into the world of freelance. Over the course of several years, she has designed various brand identities and among them are: Mexar (a gift wrapping and crafts studio located in Jumeirah), Mine (an interior design firm), and Lollicuts (a children’s boutique and spa also located in Jumeirah.)

When did you discover your passion for art?

I was raised by my mom, whom is a watercolor artist, and consequently, every little childhood doodle was greatly encouraged. The more I was given confidence, the more I drew and dabbled with my mom’s paints which eventually led me to where I stand today.

As an Emirati Female where are your hopes for the Art scene in the UAE?

A little over half a decade ago, there wasn’t much of an ‘art scene’ in the UAE; it all began with a few new names, which are now prominent, such as Art Dubai and Tashkeel. It’s absolutely fascinating how the art scene is rapidly booming, and it already seems like the Emirates is brewing modern-day Van Goghs and Andy Warhols. I remember graduating and thinking, now what? A few years on and now I’m struggling to keep up! I hope that one day, there will be as many galleries that house valuable Emirati art – around the globe – as there are museums and galleries that house western art.

I’ve seen a few of your personal work where it’s sketchbook material (illustrations, dot-drawing, sketches, pop art.. ) which medium best expresses your style?

I have to say experimental illustration using pen and ink best expresses my style; it’s a combination of various styles of illustrations such as loose, tight, intricate patterns, detail drawings, pointillism, you name it! I also love getting my hands dirty from paint, pastels, color pencils, markers, toners, glue, and so on, which explains the numerous tools and medias used in my sketchbooks.

How important is it to you to incorporate your culture with your art?

The more I travel, and tour art galleries around the world, the more I realize just how important it is to produce art that is related to the Emirates or the Middle east. Emirati art has just begun to rise; therefore, producing art that is related to our culture makes it distinctive, and this should be looked at as an opportunity.

You recently participated at the Sikka exhibition where footage of Sheikh Mohammed admiring your work was all over the papers and media etc.. What did that moment mean to you?

The video footage of His Highness viewing my illustrations blew my mind; my ego couldn’t handle it! I was greatly heartened by all the media exposure Sikka brought me; can’t wait to create more.

If you were a snack, you would be…

A box of Cheez-It – crunchy and tangy.

If you were an animal, you would be…

A Unicorn – a symbol of purity and grace.

If you were a tool, you would be…

A pencil – to leave my mark on the world.

If you were a fictional character, you would be…

Mary Poppins. Wouldn’t you want to be magical too?

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Sheikh Mohammed at the Sikka Exhibition
The Patriot
The illustration is made up entirely of hand drawn dots.
Sketchbook Illustrations

I remember first seeing Sundus’ art and being competely capitvated by it.  I could hear the sounds, feel the emotions and I could sense all the different stories coming at me all at once.  Such a rich portrayal of culture in a juxtaposition context.  The contrast is powerful and enchanting. The above ‘The Forgotten’ is my favorite piece from the Warchestra series.

Coming from a family of artists and being married to The Narcycist (Yassin Salman), Sundus has a lot of influences that help nurture her art. Being in an environment that fuels her passion and to collaborate with arab artists (poets, singers, film makers.. ) helps make it a unified goal in getting arab solidarity across.  The message is clear and we are all listening.

Artist Biography 

Sundus Abdul Hadi was born to Iraqi parents in the UAE in 1984 and raised in Montreal, Canada. As a painter and multi-media artist, Abdul Hadi works around the concepts of media representation, and subverting existing images.  Recently, she has been collaborating with her sister Tamara’s photography by creating imaginative narratives to her photographs through the “Flight” series. She has had her work featured in Iraq and Australia, where she also gave visual arts workshops to youth. Community and social justice are important elements to her work.  Her work has been exhibited in the UAE, Palestine, Canada and the US, with solo shows of her multimedia series “Warchestra” held in Toronto, Ottawa, and in her home city Montreal as part of the Arab Winter exhibition. 

WARCHESTRA series statement:

WARCHESTRA is a multi-media series about war and culture, of visual and sonic components. By replacing weapons of war with musical instruments, the Warchestra experience aims to re-imagine, re-define, and re-invent the war in Iraq as it was represented in the media. Abdul Hadi’s position  as a cultural producer of Iraqi origin has informed the work’s desire to highlight culture amongst the backdrop of war. There is a soundscape accompanying almost each painting, made in collaboration with poets or musicians in musical or lyrical dialogue with the paintings, and underlaid with field recordings from Baghdad. Trumpets trump AK-47’s, clarinets covering RPG’s, blast walls emulating zithers, and grand pianos crashing from the sky as bombs, are just a few of the transformations these works have conceived.

Sundus’ latest collection FLIGHT SERIES Statement:

Human flight, in particular, exists only in the realm of the impossible, and is brought to life through youthful imagination. This transformational act is reflective of my own desire to transform my artistic patterns, and acts as a mirror to my personal process of  creation which is to shift from a focus on violence, politics, and war, to imagination, hope, and peace. The “Flight” series is an attempt to touch on issues that relate to the abnormal circumstances surrounding violence and survival, mobility and identity.  In collaboration with my sister Tamara Abdul Hadi’s photography, our flying figures are positioned in the particular context of the current wave of uprisings and the call for change in the Middle East, in light of the obstacles that the youth must overcome to shape a brighter future.

When did you discover your passion for art?

My mother is a visual artist, and my father is an architect, so art was very much around me when I was growing up. I was about 14 years old when I started to express my thoughts on life using visual art, and it grew with me as I grew older.

Do you consider yourself to be a politcal artist?

I don’t consider myself to be a political artist because I actually really dislike politics, although it did motivate much of my work! Rather, I’d prefer to consider my artwork as a commentary on the negative influence of politics on society and culture.

The Warchestra series tells so many stories- What is the main impact you want a person to walk away with?

As it has been a year since I’ve completed this series (which actually took over 3 years to develop and complete), I look at Warchestra with a different perspective now. At first, I wanted to leave the viewer with a massive amount of information regarding the huge consequences of the war in Iraq on the people, and as a direct commentary to the media misrepresenting the injustices that occur daily as a result of the US-led war and occupation. Today, I see Warchestra as a time capsule. It contains many stories that went undetected by the Western media, it subverted the stereotypes that ran so rampant at the height of post-911 Western media coverage of the war in Iraq, and it also speaks on a much more personal level of my own search for answers during those difficult years of watching my homeland looted and burnt from the West. 

How do the West perceive your art?

I make a point in my artwork to speak to both Eastern and Western audiences. So far, I have had a good reception to my artwork in the West. I’ve had many different reactions to my work, but overall, I have found that it has given some of my Western viewers a different perspective as to how to view Iraq and the Arab world in general, by giving them a chance to experience it in a re-imagined way. I’d very much like to believe that it has made them question their own misconceptions and stereotypes, but that is the core of the artwork, afterall!

What thoughts were going through your mind during the arab spring?

Wow. Wow. Wow. We’re doing it. For ourselves! I was absolutely inspired and moved by the people power and their might to get their voices heard. There was some sadness there for those who were robbed of the opportunity to mobilize and were continuously being oppressed by their governments, a sight that we have seen too often. I did maintain a healthy level of critique, and didn’t allow myself to get blinded by the rush of “revolution”, as true revolution happens after the fall. I have a great amount of hope in the youth of the Arab world, and have faith that they will carve a better world than the one we are now trying to fix. Needless to say, the uprisings inspired my “Flight” series tremendously. It proved that nothing is impossible, not even human flight. It also inspired a collective exhibition that we put together in Montreal this past December called “Arab Winter”, which was a multi-media experience featuring work by Tunisian artists El Seed, and Karim Jabari, and Iraqi artists (and family members) The Narcicyst, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Sawsan Alsaraf, Taghlib Abdul Hadi and myself.

What in your opinion could be done more to shed light on the rich arab culture,history, literature and to squash stereotypes and false propaganda?

CULTURAL PRODUCTION! I can’t stress that more. In everything that I do, I push to always encourage youth to tell their OWN stories, and not leave it up to the media machine to speak for us, especially now when information can be simultaneously so controlled and self-driven. I’ve taught workshops to youth in Baghdad via internet (God bless technology) that inspired me greatly. Seeing this new generation of cultural producers and thinkers creating art, films, images, and media further cemented my belief that it really is the duty of the artist to “depict current events and record the social conditions of the country”. This quote is from the Baghdad Modern Art Group’s Manifesto from 1951- so much has changed since then, but the significance of culture and art on a social level has even more value and importance, in today’s world where a handful of corporations control the information that we consume.

Three words that describe you…

This is the toughest question, Mara!

Loyal, critical and grateful.


“Those who have forgotten us, when will you remember us? When will we cross your mind? When will you help our situation? Love, you have left us with no explanation, You shut the doors in our face and abondened us.Where did you come from on the day you set your eyes on us? Where did you find us? Your eyes have scarred us? You who have forgotten us, when will you remember us?”

Lyrics of a tradional iraqi folk song on The Forgotten painting from the Warchestra collection.

Warchestra Series

The Forgotten
Acrylic on canvas
3 by 5ft
2009

Violins And Bases
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas (Diptych)
3 by 6ft
2009

Baghdead
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas
2.5 by 5.5ft
2007

The Oud Maker
Acrylic and mixed-media on canvas
4 by 4ft
2010

The Flight series

Over Baghdad (Maktoob)
Digital Collage
2011
Majbooreen bil Amal (Forced Towards Hope)
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas
3 by 5ft
2010
Rumanna
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas
5 by 14ft
2011

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