This post was written & first published for Muslimah Media Watch
At the recent three-day Film & Comic Convention in Dubai, I was struck by the number of young, female collective art groups from the Gulf region. One example of such a collective, Light Studio, has members who travel from Saudi Arabia to attend conventions such as this in order to sell and promote the work they do as artists and storytellers. Curious about what it is like to be a woman artist in Saudi, I caught up with some of the members to talk it over with them:
Thank you for giving us an insight into Light Studio. How was your experience at the convention?
Fatima: It was great but overwhelming at the same time. It was great meeting all those amazing artists who were very nice and helpful. However, it was overwhelming because you see all these talents around you and you start wondering if you can get people to notice you.
SM: Tell me about Light Studio and your aspirations for it
Fatima: Light Studio is a creative space focused on: art, animation, development (games & apps), and interior design. We love what we do and are passionate about it. I hope that one day our work will be recognized globally so that the world can see the amount of local talent we have. I also would like the world to see works that truly reflect the Islamic & Arabic culture without all the misinterpretations around these days.
SM: Why did you choose to set Light Studios up rather than working individually?
Fatima: I started the group because I see a lot of talent around me that no one knows about. Talents who could do so much in this world if only they had the space, tools and the environment to flourish. I give them encouragement and guidance so that they keep going and improve. I think being part of a group is like being a piece of a puzzle; together we can make a beautiful scene and each one completes what the other lacks.
Layla: I chose to be part of the group to show people who think art is not a job that they are mistaken. Creative people have so many things to offer. We also we want to enrich the Arabic content of animation and games, as it is clear there are few animation, movies and games by Arabic talents.
SM: Are there any downsides to it?
Fatima: It is a responsibility. Now you have people who believe and share the same vision as you, it means you have to work harder to make this vision become a reality.
SM: Where do you get your artistic inspiration from?
Fatima: From life!
Layla: I get inspired by a lot of things, from different artists around the world, architecture, nature inspires me in many ways, books, movies. The list goes on!
Zainab: For me it is human nature.
SM: Your art works featured above are anime/manga which is originally from Japan. How is it being received in Saudi and the Gulf region?
Layla: “Anime & manga” artists don’t receive the same treatment from society or even from fellow artists who have different styles. I won’t say that we are in the shadows, instead we have come a long way in proving that we are here and we have a lot to offer to people.
SM: Have you ever planned to go to Japan to visit the birth place of anime?
Fatimah: Yes, I have thought about it and I would love to go one day when I can afford it, not just for the sake of anime but it just seems like a great place to visit.
Layla: I agree with Fatimah!
Zainab: I have thought about going there, not for anime itself but because I think it is a unique country.
SM: Do you draw on inspirations from Saudi Arabian culture or art as well as anime?
Fatima: I write stories and I take inspirations from my local culture as well.
SM: What is it like being young female artists in Saudi Arabia?
Layla: Art in general in Saudi Arabia is very welcomed and supported in many ways which you can see through galleries and events that encourage artist’s participation.
Fatima: There are definitely struggles, but I don’t think these struggles are specific to female artists only. I see them as struggles for all artists. It would also be good to have more academic institutions that provide specialized art programs and courses and to see an increase in spaces to showcase young artist’s work.
SM: How is the landscape changing in regards to young, Muslim female artists in the Middle East?
Fatima: Social Media, just like everywhere in the world, is a powerful tool that young people in this region are definitely using to get their voices heard. Artists have built online communities to connect with each other wherever they are in the world they are.
SM: For those reading who may want to embark on art as a career, what advice would you give them?
Layla: Art is a journey you have to live through all of its ups and downs so no matter what happens, don’t stop, always practice and seek advice and critiques from artists around you. Don’t be ashamed about your work and hide it because then you will not learn and improve.
Fatimah: Practice and never give up. There is no such thing as “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how to do it”, everything can be achieved by hard work and determination.
If you would like to find out more about Light Studio and their work, visit their website.