Interviewed by Eman Bahrani
Yasmine is a multi-talented Lebanese-Saudi creative who was raised between Montreal, Beirut and Dubai. She is now based in Canada, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Law. In between academic pursuits, she takes candid photographs with her cameras and enjoys exploring music from all around the world.
Her pictures and collages are a beautiful narration and reflection of her emotions. The bold, vivid colors and hues of her art radiate a sense of nostalgia, evoking raw feelings.
Influenced by artists such as Sade, Abel Tesfaye, M.I.A, as well as a few R&B icons, Yasmine learned to appreciate slow and smooth sounds. She was later inspired to create beautiful mixes that blend Arab culture and sound with radical messages. Her works feature the likes of Fairouz and Hamed Sinno, alongside dialogues from old Arabic movies. Using a blend of familiar but unexpected sounds, Yasmine signals the presence of her Arab roots whilst unabashedly embarking on a path of equality and liberalism. One of her more popular mixes, titled Lebanon, delves into topics of freedom, sexuality, love and politics. Along with her new DISORIENT mix, Lebanon is featured on Khabar Keslan.
Yasmine’s work will also be exhibited for the first time this fall for Lebanese Artists in Montreal. Incorporating politics through different mediums of art, allows for different types of stories to be told. This can be seen through her successful fashion brand, Prince Politique. Her jacket of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim country, is an artistic symbol of resistance and protest. Another piece speaks of Beirut as a rendezvous, the artists motherland.
Banat Collective speaks with Yasmine about her art, her muses and the stories she tells through her creative work. Yasmine has also contributed to our publication, “In The Middle of it All”, which you can find on our website shop.
Tell us about your beginnings as a creator.
I started to manifest when my best friend went back to Riyadh two winters ago. She left me a camera that belonged to her mother and told me to do what I love so that I can stop thinking about what I was going through. It just happened naturally.
The artwork for the mix you submitted to In the Middle of It All is very beautiful; could you give us a little backstory about it?
The cover art is by the lovely Randy Grskovic. When 311 and I were exploring photos that would reflect our motivation, the flowers spoke about the blossoming friendship we were already diving into. It felt like our passion fit the colors and sounds.
Can you tell us about the process of collaborating with 311 on your ‘Sinking Rising Dancing in the Desert’ mix?
It felt natural. We inspire each other on a daily basis. She shares sounds with me and I share my compassion. 311 feels a lot when she starts mixing: it’s routed within her. You can tell by her attention to detail. The short story describing the mix outlines our thought process in a gentle way. The title explains the way we felt growing with one another this past year: We started sinking and rising, until we ended the night dancing in the desert. It’s been such a moving experience having her this close.
In your designs and mixes, you use your Arab heritage very prominently. Who or what influences you the most?
My mother, always. She’s an artist herself who is still trying to explore how she feels. Being around her fuels my energy to do more. She reminds me of the strength women constantly must hold together to keep going in our current society. You’ll know what I mean if you go out for coffee with her. She’s a cool breeze on a warm summer night.
What is it about collage art that appeals to you?
It’s the way you can recreate a feeling with your own personal touch, definitely. Embracing another artist’s expression is the reason why we all love art this much.
The وينكم يا بنات piece is both intimate and controversial. Could you elaborate on that?
I thought about it when spending a long but beautiful summer with my mother, who I only see once a year. We were back from a long walk on a breezy night, and we started playing old Lebanese hits from her time growing up. Majida Roumi started playing and my mother began recalling the short and young friendship she once had with her. Majida used to practice her singing lessons at my mother’s neighbor’s apartment. The night went on with my mother sharing deep memories of her “coming of age” story in Beirut, and Majida Roumi was subtly becoming the face of the piece I wanted to share with Banat.
The poems you use are very calming; are they a reflection of what you’re feeling, or is it also your intention, as you compose, to put the reader at ease?
A blend of both. I feel it, I write it. Every girl’s mind should be naturally at ease, although there’s too much going on around us trying to constantly put us down. But only you have the power to put yourself at ease.
You say, “every girl’s mind should be naturally at ease”. What are your thoughts on feminism in the Arab world?
I haven’t taken the time to process feminism in the Arab World as others have been able to. Being away for so long had me reaching out towards my own process, about what I think it means to become a great woman no matter where I am in the world. I’m proud of women who are fighting for change in the Arab world, it’s so great to finally see it being applied. I will continue to do my part from the bottom of my heart.
Speaking of that, your mixes are political and sentimental, yet also strikingly bold and elaborate stories in and of themselves. How would you express your process when making them?
My mixes are a form of storytelling from “an Arabian girl’s memories” point of view. I lay down modern tracks that I feel convey what I am currently going through, along with the political dreams or nightmares that I begin envisioning. You’ll see positive mixes as well as negative endings. The last minutes of the mix “Palestine” should give you an idea about what I mean by that. “Wen el Arab?” pushed “Wenkom ya Banat?” to the rest of the “Wen?” pieces that expressed that story. My creative process is simply to keep following my heart.
How do you decide on the story and theme of your mixes? What creates the sense of continuity between the tracks in terms of transitions?
It just happens as I get inspired. I’m always in touch with the message I want to send -and that will always be about ‘hope’ and looking forward to a better Middle East, Asia & Africa. I could fit in the recordings of my mom’s voice recordings talking about God just to end up transitioning to an electronic beat that reminds me of last night’s party. I continue with the thoughts in my head…but it can also be distorted for when I want to express the tension in my mind or political idea.
How does your study of Political Science contribute to your artistry as a visual artist and a DJ?
Studying Political Science gave me an idea of what already meant a lot to me. Going to university isn’t the reason I have this knowledge, nor should it necessarily be looked at as the reason why I am who I am today. I appreciate it, but my personal journey towards my own understanding of political thought only pushed me to express more. Art comes from the heart, that’s all I know.
Which of your work is the most representative of what you want to portray?
My mixes, most definitely, because it is showcasing the power of sound and the power of one’s own voice.
Tell us more about Prince Politique. How do you relate fashion and design to advocating for and experiencing equality and freedom?
Prince Politique is a dream. The MA-1 flight jacket sparks the devastating memory of the invasion in Iraq by American troops. I was tired of wearing it without my own stand for it. The design described the clash of conflicting political issues. The Arabic text, the iconic Pakistani leader, Benazir Bhutto, and the “trendy” bomber jacket…makes you think. It’s beautiful to me because I feel as though I’m constantly between right and wrong. I don’t try too hard to advocate. If you get it, that’s great. Wearing the jacket can create interesting discussions about freedom. The most important thing is to let it fuel your greater self.
What kind of conversations do you hope to spark, specifically with Prince Politique?
Hope and inspiration. Bringing together people from the Middle East, Asia & Africa with compassion. Envisioning a space for equality, freedom and non-violence for all. Prince Politique follows the form of storytelling, you have to look beyond the words and images.
Creating art such as yours in MENA, a conservative region, may be considered provocative. What are your thoughts on that?
To some it is provocative, to me it is real. I was very used to being afraid when I was younger until I simply let go. Letting go of fear will change your life in miraculous ways. You will finally begin to live. So, if my expression provokes you, you can just look the other way.
What message do you have for other creatives who are hesitant to share controversial work?
Everyone goes through their creative process at their own pace. Following your heart is the only message I can convey. Break the boundaries surrounding you with the power of your truest self.
What do you think of Banat Collective as a platform?
Banat Collective is an eye-opening platform that will open the doors for more women to begin expressing what is really going on and what it truly means to be who we are in this part of the world. Art allows us to ease the mind of its chaos. Having a team such as yours to support us through it can only be considered as a blessing, so I can only thank you enough.
Can you tell us about your next projects, if any?
My next project is to continue telling the story of Prince Politique.
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