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"I can reshape my identity and recreate what is culture" – Artist, Zeinab Al Hashemi

"I can reshape my identity and recreate what is culture" – Artist, Zeinab Al Hashemi

Both artist and designer

Text: Faizal Dahlawia


Image: Swarovski,
Zeinab Al Hashemi

With her first international collaboration behind her, Emirati artist Zeinab Al Hashemi is now looking forward to help shape the regional arts and design scene.

One of the highlights from the much-talked-about Dubai Design Week was a sparkling installation, aptly titled Hexalite. Borne out of a partnership between Emirati artist Zeinab Al Hashemi and luxury jewellery maker Swarovski, the kaleidoscopic sculpture utilised multiple diamonds to create a stunning play of light. As varied and ever changing as the light that hits the installation piece, Al Hashemi continues to change, transform and adapt to the arts and design landscape too. Here, Buro 24/7 Middle East sat down with the emerging creative to talk about evolution, inspiration and tradition...

As a conceptual artist and a designer, is there one medium that you find yourself more drawn towards?

In the past I was encouraged to pick one because I think people need to know what you are. You're either this or that, but what if we can merge the two? I've always used objects that haven't been used in the arts scene and introduce them as art, such as satellite imaging.

Interview with Zeinab Al Hashemii

Innovation is often the key to creativity. How do you combine to create?

As a person, I'm very observant. I look at things which people do not necessarily pay attention to. Sometimes the idea is incomplete, sometime I can see it from A to Z, almost as though I had dreamt of it.

Tell us about the collaboration with Swarovski...

I've always been intrigued by the idea of a kaleidoscope. When Swarovski approached me, I looked at my previous works and I noticed that the common thread between the crystals and my work is the repetition of the pattern. The initial idea was to create a kaleidoscope machine. But then, I thought, I work with hexagons so let's bring hexagons in. Then, I also work with repetition so let's bring that in. Plus I like to scale up and create interactive art because it cannot be just a monument, people should be able to engage and elicit a certain experience.

Interview with Zeinab Al Hashemii

That's very true. Art and design can be very focused on interactivity. What's your opinion on the movement in the Middle East?

To me it's always about manifesting a certain idea, according to the space and time in which I create. Interactivity is still relatively new but I believe it's interesting to create interactive art in this part of the world, especially to engage the audience and public, not necessarily for the art and design fraternity but for people who are just going about their daily lives. It's a super young arts and design scene so this helps to spread awareness as to what art is.

Would you say Dubai is moving too fast into the future, where a loss of identity within the arts and design scene is possible?

We are moving incredibly fast but I think this generation understands the importance of culture and tradition.

I THINK WE ARE SHAPING OUR IDENTITY AND RESHAPING OUR HERITAGE WITH WHAT WE DO TODAY.

Culture and heritage are very serious subjects but your doesn't always reflect that. How do you manage the perception of your work?

I was once told that my work is too optimistic and that it doesn't tackle any issue at all. This type of feedback usually arises when I go to art fairs because people take themselves too seriously. Design fairs on the other hand are fun. This is because art, especially from this region, usually speaks about conflict or religion and then suddenly there's my work, where the inspiration doen't stem from something serious. 

Interview with Zeinab Al Hashemii

Now, read about the architectural giants that are opening their offices at Dubai Design District

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