Tags: creative director
It’s still a bit tricky, trying to find the creative scene of Dubai, but I expect things to change after Design Week starting in less than 5 days. But on my search upon galleries and art in Dubai I came across these bold and straightforward sketches of this guy, whose name I pronounce really badly. In his art, I found all the tradition known to me, re-interpreted, re-discovered and re-produced and I was happy to see that tradition didn’t stop at bourgas, but stretched to architecture and cultural diversity as an ongoing phenomenon of this region. Yes, as you’ve guessed by now, I am talking about the one and only Khalid Mezaina, who said he wanted to take the session elsewhere and not do a house photo-shoot, so we ended up walking on alleys and streets in the souqs surrounding Dubai’s Creek, only to discover a neighborhood so alive and so full of energy, we were both left speechless.
How did it all begin? Could you describe your journey to becoming an artist / graphic designer?
It all began a very long time ago when I picked up a pencil for the first time and drew my favorite cartoon characters before I could write a properly constructed sentence. I love to draw and have been doing so since I was very young. Hobby developed into talent, and as I grew older, I knew that I wanted to draw forever.After high school, I graduated from the American University of Sharjah majoring in Visual Communications. With education finally out of the way, I entered the real world by earning full-time placements in UAE’s budding art scene, including the Sharjah Art Foundation and currently at Tashkeel in Dubai. This inspired me to personally start participating in art related activities, including exhibitions, projects and residencies, both in the UAE and internationally. Being an active, practicing creative in Dubai has been a beneficial experience – building a positive reputation for myself and establishing a career in the local art/design scene. In 2010, I launched ‘krossbreed’, which is an independent, interdisciplinary studio and brand involved in creating original, fun products. ‘krossbreed’ allows my creations to become more accessible and reach a wider audience by applying my designs/illustrations onto various media apart from artworks hanging on gallery walls. ‘krossbreed’ products so far range from t-shirts, prints, stationary, tableware and more to come.
You show your work online. How has the Internet helped you spread your ideas? Do you think your work would be much different if it weren’t for online social platforms?
I think the Internet has helped me with having a digital platform to showcase my work to a wider audience, which has been extremely beneficial. More people are familiar with my work thanks to online presence. Without it, I think it would have been an entirely different scenario. Having an online presence (including my blog and social media platforms) has helped people gain access to the work I do and understand my creative practice. Online platforms also allow for an interesting dialogue about ideas and projects. Just as I’m inspired with what I sometimes find online, I hope my work does the same for someone who stumbles upon my work when surfing the web.
In your work a lot of traditional elements and symbols can be seen. Sometimes you just use them, other times you give them new meaning or context. Is the Arabic Culture a big source of influence for your work? How do you see yourself interacting with that?
The Arabic elements used in my works are usually aesthetic and/or fashion references which I appreciate from my heritage. Traditional architecture, patterns or fashion are examples of Arabic motifs I reference in my works. I find these impressions beautiful and like to integrate them in my works in an unconventional manner.
In our walk you said you love comics. If you were to make your own strip, who would be the hero and what would he or she do?
When I was younger, I would fill sketchbooks with constant ideas for comic books and characters. But with age and the responsibilities that came with it, my comic book ideas began to reduce and were eventually abandoned on my bookshelves as nothing but immature ideas (some had great potential!). Now my love for the medium is limited to reading stories and appreciating the artistry by masters in the field. If I were to get back to making a comic of my own, I think the story would be of a hero who is extremely relatable, with an otherworldly responsibility to protect the world from evil. While growing up I was a huge fan of Joss Whedon and his masterpiece ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’. I think my comic book would be heavily inspired by these stories, which kept me entertained and anxious when finding out what happens to Buffy and her ‘Scooby Gang’ while stopping evil taking over the world!
Dubai is about to have its Design Days Festival once more. What is your part in that and what should I not miss?
As mentioned earlier, I currently work at Tashkeel, and for Design Days Dubai, we will be showcasing bespoke products designed by three Emirati designers. I’m personally excited about this project because this is Tashkeel’s first attempt at commissioning designers to create unique products, and we’re looking forward to launching it at the fair. March is art month in Dubai (also referred to as March Madness!), so there are a lot of things to see and do. The key events you should definitely not miss are Design Days Dubai (my personal favorite), Art Dubai and SIKKA. Dubai comes alive with art, design and creativity. Besides representing Tashkeel at Design Days Dubai, I also have an artwork on display during SIKKA as part of a group exhibition with music as its theme.
Unfortunately, Dubai is a city that leaves very little to street artists or artists in general to express themselves in public. Yet you managed to get permission for a street artist to have one of his murals on a huge wall. Would you like to share more about this story? What are your expectations and dreams when it comes to public space and the art scene mixing together here in the Middle East?
Public art or street art doesn’t usually happen here because of the strict laws. But if there’s a will, there’s a way! At Tashkeel, one of the artists we frequently work with is Spanish street artist Ruben Sanchez, a really cool dude with amazing talent. He showed interest in wanting to create a large-scale mural on a public wall. After picking the wall to work on, Tashkeel worked hard to gain permission from the municipality to give the go-ahead to begin the project. After a long wait, we successfully received approval, and Ruben was able to work on his fantastic mural, penalty-free! The mural is currently on Jumeirah Beach Road and is the first public art mural in Dubai.
Stupid question, but how do you see yourself 10 years from now? And how did you imagine you would be like now, 10 years ago?
I’m really not good at planning ahead, especially in preparation for the next ten years. But a decade from now, I hope ‘krossbreed’ becomes bigger and better, where I’ll be able to sustain from it as a proper business. I hope my designs leave a lasting impression in the city I call home, and maybe the world. And I hope my future is filled with happiness, positivity and laughter. I fear becoming a grumpy old man! So I hope my future me is still smiling, and am content with my close-knit family and friends.
What do you love and what do you dislike about Dubai?
Dubai is convenient, comfortable and safe. I truly am blessed to call Dubai my home. What I love most about Dubai is how there are so many cultures living in one city. These cultures influence each other, creating sub cultures and a hybrid city. What I dislike about Dubai is how it makes certain people too comfortable and disrespectful towards the city and the community, becoming rude and mistreating others. People forget how to be good humans sometimes.
Quick question: what was the best thing you came across on our walk around the souqs?
Other then the random McDonald’s sign attached onto the exterior of a house, the best thing about our walk was observing how people were celebrating their Friday. No matter your background, Fridays in Dubai is a social occasion – from the barbershop to the cafeteria, everybody was out and about enjoying themselves in the presence of good company and making the most of this city they call home.
You can see more of Khalid’s work on his personal blog.
A few comments about the things pictured and said above: Usually the area we walked in is much more quiet, but our walk took place on a Friday afternoon, where everyone here in Dubai gets the day off, so we were lucky to see how people on this side of town enjoy their spare time. / Are the wonderful people we met were more than happy to pose for me, some even asking me to take a picture of them and their friends as I was walking by. / The kittens were sleeping outside and Indian restaurant. / While walking and looking around, I saw the bread maker. His work space was so quiet and, well, white and he was such a tranquil figure in this background. / Khalid went crazy over the Mc Donald’s sign we saw on a wall. Of course there was no restaurant following the sign. Just the sign. / The photo place is actually an African habit, where people go and have their picture cropped and attached to Dubai’s landmarks. It looks strange, yet magnificent in it’s own special way. / The small pieces of wood wrapped in thread are actually this special kind of wood that Mohammed used to brush his teeth with. Some very religious people still use them. / Our walk ended on only the best place in the world to have fresh juice in Dubai Creek. I had mango banana and Khalid had orange juice. He spilled his, I enjoyed mine and we turned the pages of his notebooks checking out his work. He also has a travel journal, decorated with boarding passes on its cover.