The Saudi-based artist show­ing Nike what it should do next

Grazia Middle East - - CONTENTS -

You and Nike go way back – what’s the story there?

It all started with the VICE x Nike col­lab­o­ra­tion, where I pro­duced the Satel­lite Cul­ture cam­paign – a means of re­vis­it­ing our past with hum­ble in­ten­tions be­fore the in­ter­net, with the Air Max ’97. From there grew a long-last­ing friend­ship with the brand, with them giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity to pro­duce my own pair of sneak­ers called Dusk to Dawn. Ever since, it’s be­come a sup­port­ive brand that helps me cre­ate my vi­sion – and it’s only the be­gin­ning. Now I’m work­ing on a new col­lab­o­ra­tion with Arwa Al Banawi and Nike, which will be re­leased late Novem­ber.

Tell us the mean­ing be­hind this spe­cific piece, then…

“As I started work­ing closely with Nike, I was in­spired by its global im­pact, and the weight of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity it holds. It was a mo­ment of tri­umph for me when it launched the Nike Pro Hi­jab. As a Mus­lim, when a global brand recog­nises a re­li­gion [like this] it gives the mes­sage that ‘my’ Ara­bian penin­sula as a whole is very in­spir­ing. Its rich­ness in cul­ture and di­ver­sity makes it a melt­ing pot that in­spires the masses. Here, I cre­ated a mock cam­paign that in­fuses the past and present, her­itage and moder­nity, cater­ing to the di­ver­sity of my cul­ture. The niqab is a huge part of that, and of­ten mis­con­ceived. Some view them as op­pres­sive, but they don’t un­der­stand that so many have freely cho­sen that path in life. I felt like Nike’s next steps should be to cater to veiled cul­ture be­cause it would be in­cred­i­ble to cre­ate a dri-fit niqab that al­lows women to ex­er­cise while keep­ing the poise of their re­li­gion. I part­nered with Ab­dul­lah Al-Shehri be­cause he’s an in­cred­i­ble por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher who re­ally cap­tures emo­tions, and since the veil doesn’t al­low much of the face to show, the chal­lenge was to let the eyes speak. The model is Amy Roko, a so­cial-me­dia in­flu­encer who is known for her niqab. She’s

flaunted her life­style un­der the veil with­out ever im­ply­ing that it has been a crutch.

What was the driv­ing force be­hind you get­ting into art?

“My first years in col­lege were fo­cused on study­ing pre-med, but cer­tain things that hap­pened, like the war back in 2006 in Le­banon, de­tached me from that no­tion. I didn’t al­ways want to be­come an artist, but I was mo­ti­vated by the means to com­ment on so­cial and po­lit­i­cal events via vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tions. That evolved into want­ing to be­come a sto­ry­teller of sorts. With a ma­jor in an­thro­pol­ogy, I or­gan­i­cally then be­came some­what of a pop-cul­ture an­a­lyst.

What’s your over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage?

Art func­tions as a haven for ideas, art is pro­pa­ganda, art is a voice, art is a means to seek change. As you can see, it’s a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that goes be­yond nor­mal dis­course; it has the abil­ity to drive a no­tion from said to felt. Many artists seek art to voice their opin­ion on the prob­lems of the world. The world is very prob­lem­atic, and in the age of so­cial me­dia the need for art is cru­cial in or­der to prompt peo­ple into tak­ing ac­tion. I be­lieve art de­codes his­tory.

Tell us about the art scene in the Mid­dle East, where you fit in, how you feel it is evolv­ing, and where you see it head­ing

There’s a strong cur­rent of nostal­gia run­ning through my work, but its sig­nif­i­cance is still vague. Does it re­flect a long­ing for the in­no­cence of child­hood and the sim­plic­ity of the predig­i­tal age? Or is it a form of es­capism from the cur­rent so­ciopo­lit­i­cal prob­lems? That’s what I try to an­swer. The con­tem­po­rary art scene has raised the bar for emerg­ing artists and de­sign­ers to cre­ate trib­utes to their cul­ture with an evolv­ing state of mind. I can sit here and men­tion the en­tire penin­sula. But off the top of my head, there’s Khalid Zahid, who has com­bined Is­lamic art and mo­tifs in a non-con­ven­tional way; Ali She­habi, whose pho­tog­ra­phy has built a cult fol­low­ing, and de­sign­ers such as Too Dark To See To­mor­row, Arwa Al Banawi and Mo­hammed Khoja (Hin­damme), who have all im­pacted the fash­ion scene as Arabs. I al­ways say that I’m su­per-proud of my gen­er­a­tion. Young Arabs have been cre­at­ing and pro­duc­ing things that have se­ri­ously put us on the map. We have been able to forge an iden­tity for our­selves and an ever-grow­ing aes­thetic that de­fines us.

“ART IS PRO­PA­GANDA, ART IS A VOICE, ART IS A MEANS TO SEEK CHANGE.” WITH QUOTES LIKE THIS, AND ART LIKE THAT, CON­TEM­PO­RARY ARTIST ALI CHA’ABAN IS FAST BE­COM­ING ONE OF THE MOST IM­POR­TANT MES­SEN­GERS OF HIS GEN­ER­A­TION…

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The Bro­ken Dream I

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