We go under the radar and spotlight the region’s vibrant newcomers making a name for themselves on the scene.
Hometown: Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Now Lives: In an 18th-century apartment in Beirut, where she “works, lives and hosts”.
Claim to Fame: Rym is a well-documented fashion plate and the force behind Super Yaya, a worldly label that is equal parts Supreme and Dakar street style. The brand has developed a cult following for its cheeky graphics, including a T-shirt with “100% Africosmic” emblazoned across the chest. (The label’s spring collection will be sold at boutiques like Opening Ceremony and Maryam Nassir Zadeh) “I really want the brand to be spontaneous,” she says. “If down the line I want to make tires, I want it to be possible, you know?”
Big Break: A 2013 graduate of Central Saint Martins, in London, Rym designed a final thesis collection that consisted of veils and custom Nike sneakers encased in sandals. Her singular style and unique approach led to a job designing abayas at a now-defunct fashion house in Dubai, after she caught the attention of The Sunday Times of London. “I’ve always loved clothing but I never really was interested in fashion.”
Latest Project: Just last month she released a branded notebook with stickers and a calendar, featuring colourful images of family and friends wearing Super Yaya designs at various hometown haunts. “The brand is very visual, so as long as you get some kind of universal language out there, whatever you make, people get.”
Next Thing: Rym wants to enter the grocery business. In addition to her label’s e-commerce “superstore,” she plans to create a digital supermarket stocking items sourced from throughout West Africa. “I want to sell all my references straight up on the website.”
Modernist Magic: Most of her design influences come from the oft-overlooked masterpieces of African modernism, including Abidjan’s former city hall designed by French architect Henri Chomette. “Yaya seeks to translate this ideology through clothing by combining the contemporary and the traditional, the east and the west, and the colonised and the coloniser.”
Hometown: Muharraq, Bahrain
Now Lives: “Still at home in Muharraq as a base but I’m a regular globetrotter”
Claim to Fame: Rasha is a Bahraini documentary and travel photographer with a focus on culture, architecture and traditional ways of living. She has travelled to more than 62 countries showcasing offbeat destinations through her lens. “Coming from a strictly finance background, colours and creativity are what keep me going and every day is a battle between using my left and right side of the brain!” She is also the founder of FotoBH – a platform showcasing photography of daily life in Bahrain – and the founder of Qaflh, for customised group travel experiences.
Big Break: In 2012 Rasha won the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority’s Media Industry Innovator award. She also participated in a six-episode reality TV program: I’m a Nat Geo Photographer on Nat Geo Abu Dhabi. She’s also proven her multiplatform prowess contributing to magazines such as Brownbook, ALEF and Gulf Life. The biggest achievement is definitely “being shortlisted at the National Geographic Abu Dhabi photo contest”.
Latest Project: As she made the punishing ascent to Mount Kilimanjaro, she documented every step of the climb on the first dawn of 2018. Now back in Bahrain, “I’ve been busy with the FotoBH team working as media partners for Shop Bahrain, the biggest shopping festival in the Kingdom. There are lots of exciting projects in the pipeline.”
Next Thing: “I like to keep future projects a surprise! But let’s just say 2018 is the year of Africa. I’m also planning the next Qaflh group trips for 2018 – watch this space.”
Eye of The Beholder: A good photograph according to Rasha “is a story showing rapport in a clean composition”. Street photography and documentary is outside her comfort zone but she thrills on that. “I like going to places like the souq where I try to capture scenes from daily life where people are really genuine.”
Hometown: Kuwait City
Now Lives: Kuwait City
Claim to Fame: Lover of the mystical, Farah dances with your energy and turns you into a poem. She had her first spoken word performance in Harlem, New York in the summer 2015. You’ll find her slaying cases at the courts in the morning and between poems at night. Lawyer and poet, Farah emerges emotion with logic and words are everywhere for her. “As a poet I am touch with many spirits and I seek to outpour with heightened emotions.” She is known for her instant poetry and has taken up the challenge of writing instant poems in many events that have gained success over the past three years. She published her first poetry book Hi, i’ll love you anyway in March 2017.
Big Break: “My first spoken word performance in New York. Putting my words out there felt like exposing myself entirely and the reactions I got shook my core. I’ve never felt more connected to that many souls in my life before. Putting my truth out there brings out the truth in everything around me.” Since that day Farah has never wanted to stop wanting to be one with words.
Latest Project: She has emphasised the importance of accepting mental illness and the abundance of love that come with that into the mainstream. “I have been at the forefront of raising awareness and self-awareness in poetry through spoken word.”
Next Thing: “I’m about to showcase an art exhibition, a collaboration of abstract art and poetry. The exhibition aims to represent visuals and written poetry as a tool of expression about the importance of being here and present.”
In The Name of Love: Picking one favourite poem is an impossible task. “I write because I come alive with words. Language brings us together. I write because love is the only truth. I write for the truth and I hope through poetry I enable the courage in everyone to stand, feel or simply become their truth.”
Hometown: Orange County, CA
Now Lives: Dubai
Claim to Fame: Dulce by Safiya is a fashion brand playing to glamorous streetwear and it’s been growing at rapid speed of late. “Last year was really such an incredible year full of unexpected highs. I have to admit the spontaneous unplanned things that went so right were pretty incredible.” In late 2016, the brand gained momentum when Safiya dressed Lindsay Lohan – “that’s when news spread like wildfire and people were intrigued to know who this modest designer was.”
Big Break: Safiya can pinpoint the exact moment when it happened. “It was a private invite-only concert for a woman I have admired since I was 10, the mood was nostalgic and the songs were too. I leaned over to hand Gwen Stefani a gift I made for her and right then and there she opened it and put it on right before my eyes, the crowd went absolutely mental for me. The icing on the cake had to be her performing her entire closing song wearing my design.”
Latest Project: “As a brand I find it imperative to listen to my followers and clients so I decided to take a poll and have discussions with REAL women.” This then revealed the need to be comfortable and still feel and look glamorous. Which is translated throughout the A/W18 collection: Serpentine Queen. The collection embodies a woman transforming from her day to evening, sans the real snake, in what she calls: “Wearable glam”. Every piece of the collection is designed with comfort, glamorousness, and functionality – “keeping a bit of bling in mind of course. After all, this is Dubai darling.”
Next Thing: The brand is getting into read-to-wear gear for 2018. “The wheel is always spinning and we are currently in the planning phase of the next step for Dulce by Safiya. I can’t reveal too many hints but the next thing has to do with subscribing and perhaps a shape of some sort. Be sure to follow for updates on where we will pop up in 2018, where we are planning to stock, and most importantly WHO will be wearing Dulce by Safiya next?”
Conservative Chic: Safiya says when she decided to wear the hijab, her other options didn’t speak to her. “As a modest dresser I despised seeing when women had to overcompensate with mainstream fashion pieces and wear sleeves under a strapless dress – it haunted me. I began learning and visiting textile shops and once I learned the basics I began designing for close friends and family and got great feedback.” Dulce is about being inclusive of all modern modest women, who exist across every echelon of society.
Hometown: Manama, Bahrain
Now Lives: London
Claim to Fame: Amal has been curator at the Serpentine Galleries in London, running the Edgware Road Project’s Centre for Possible Studies since 2009. At this experimental project space that for four years had its home in empty cafes on Edgware Road, she has curated more than 30 projects connecting artists from London and around the world to communities and activists in the city, developing exhibitions, public art interventions and publications.
She is also an artist and founding member of GCC collective, which formed in 2013 at Art Dubai and has gone on to show work all over the world, from Beijing to LA, including commissions for the Berlin Biennale, Whitney Biennale, Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris and MOMA PS1 in New York amongst others.
Big Break: “I began my working life in documentary film production, after coming back to reality after working on a film in a remote part of the Sinai desert in 2004.” Amal then stumbled across the Townhouse Gallery in downtown Cairo and this contemporary art space had surroundings into the gallery, where there is no clear boundary between the gallery and the street. “I realised that I could still be working with people, alongside community struggles and issues as well as with artists and with art. In 2007 I moved to London to do my MA at Goldsmiths and started an artist project space in East London, and have worked as an artist and curator ever since.”
Latest Project: She has just finished working on opening a solo show at City University of New York’s James Gallery, which is set to open on 1 February. With GCC art collective she is also part of the Art Dubai’s The Room, a five-day event that will inhabit an extended TV studio for a daytime talk programme, Good Morning GCC, during the fair in March.
Next Thing: Her schedule doesn’t fall short of great social conscience, seeing the culmination of several artist residencies with social organisations and movements in London, which will result in an international symposium called Rights to the City, in May. “We will bring together artists working in Dakar, Mumbai, Puerto Rico, NY and London to discuss ways that arts can work together with other. I think the symposium will be a great moment to bring people together and share these different ways of working. I hope it leads to working with different audiences, and sharing this work in a more practical way in other cities.”
Talking Art: “I am interested in how art isn’t just about the traditional four walls of a gallery or a classroom, but about learning while walking down the street, from listening to each other and to ourselves. I think art is very political. We want to connect our needs and desires to reality and I am interested in how we can go about doing that together. How do you create the conditions by which desires for new worlds and new futures come togther and form our realities? How are we able to imagine our futures together?”
Words: Georgie Bradley and Alex Hawgood