Sarah Ahmed is a 25 year old straight outta Abu Dhabi. She graduated with a Bachelors in Networking and Security but spends a lot of her time creating and sharing art. Her work often reflects her daily happenings whether online or IRL (which is what I love about her work). Highly driven and ambitious in her art journey, she is constantly experimenting with different mediums. She founded and curates the Middle Eastern art e-mag Jaffat El Aqlam, she paints, writes, produces glitch art, zines, 35mm photographs and illustrations. This girl is an all-round creative that just doesn't stop working.
In our first ever opening interview feature for BANAT, I learned how Sarah found feminism whilst growing up, her inspiration behind her successful project Jaffat Al Eqlam, why she loves glitch art and her interests in "arts, plants, poetry and sending postcards."
Can you tell me about your most recent work?
My recent work has been more on the experimental side. I like learning new techniques or new mediums and see where they take me. I’ve been getting into is glitch art, which I’m still learning new things about every day. Another thing I enjoy creating are tiny stories by drawing over 35 mm photographs with watercolors and gouache.
Tell us why are you fascinated with glitch art.
I love glitch art because it combines two of my favorite things. Computers (what I majored in) and art (what keeps me sane). In a society where you’re constantly asked to define yourself or ‘pick a side', I realized that both I.T. and art are a part of me, so, glitch art was my way of showing showing exactly that.
I’ve experimented with digital collaging before, but with glitch art, most of it depended on unpredictable factors and if I’m having a long ‘glitch art’ session, sorta calculated chance? Pixels are basically rearranged differently every single time based on my input, if I notice a tiny pattern, altering it slightly makes it somehow calculated.
I started looking up different ways to break images, and experimented with different apps, codes and methods. I found myself drawn to this supposedly broken form of art but I also found my definition of beauty in these intentional blunders, which made me explore this medium and develop my practice.
What is feminism to you and how does it play a role in your life?
As a teenager, I didn’t understand the importance of feminism, but as I grew into my 20s, it started getting clearer how necessary it was to identify as a Feminist in a society that sometimes blatantly or unconsciously favors men. Feminism made me understand my surroundings better, and made me a mentally and emotionally stronger woman. I don’t wait for anyone to tell me what I can or can’t do because I’m a woman, I just do it and see how *I* feel about it.
What is your thinking on the role of feminism in Arab culture?
I personally don’t understand why a lot of anti-feminists are against women wanting to be treated like human beings and not like “princesses” that need “protection” from the “cruel world”. It’s 2016, we should definitely talk about women and their needs more often and more openly, and not dismiss them because it’s “extreme” or “taboo”. We should teach young girls that yes they can be stay at home wives and that’s ok, but they can also be engineers, artists, pilots and that’s very ok too.
I agree that we need to create better communication to people who are 'anti-feminists', women and men alike, about the value of equality. How do you think we can do that?
It’s true that we need to create this conversation for people to understand, but sadly, it will always depend on the other side, whether they are open to it or not. Nonetheless, our role is to do the best we can with our words, art, and the way we carry ourselves.
Art definitely plays a huge role in closing the gap in communication. Hopefully their eyes and hearts will open to see that there are more ways than one!
I think art plays the biggest role, because if we’re being super real, arabs don’t read a lot, and if they did, whilst reading, it’s so easy to force their (I say their, but it’s something I do too when I’m reading) own opinions into the text but with art it’s instant and I feel like even if it could go against everything they believe in, it will still impact them greatly. Can’t wait to see BANAT change lives <3
Recylcled Polaroids, 2016
What do you think it means to be a creative in the UAE?
Being a creative in the UAE is difficult when it comes to looking for decent art supplies stores, affordable studio spaces and things not being so expensive (such as developing & buying film). That being said, the UAE has many art supporters which is always inspiring.
Jaffat El Aqlam celebrates creative minds in MENA regions, what inspired you to create this e-mag?
5 years ago, I got into reading online magazines and the idea of having content online and the flexibility of it all fascinated me. I searched for MENA based e-mags to submit stuff to, and they were either political e-mags or just not based in MENA. I started with a tumblr blog to feature my favorite creatives and here we are.
What do you see in BANAT that appeals to you?
BANAT has incredible potential to being a brilliant e-mag for young girls and women in MENA. A space for us to share experiences, words and art is very much needed in MENA.
What are your plans for future works?
Planning on finally launching our e-store [on Jaffat El Aqlam] with exclusive works from our contributors such as zines, patches, postcards, totes, pins etc.
Who/What inspires you?
I’m constantly inspired by my surroundings. Everything and everyone, from real life to people I know from the internet. I think the key is to not wait around for inspiration, but sometimes I actively look for it everywhere.