Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
I was honored enough to be chosen as one of the speakers of Nuqat’s first design conference at GUST University in 2010 alongside designers like Rana Salam and Ganzeer. Everyone knows that Kuwaitis are constantly on top of their game and always on top of trend curves, from fashion to business; they are extremely savvy as a nation.
The first Khaleeji to purchase Sketchbook magazine was from Kuwait, my first Khaleeji fan mail (or email) was from a Kuwaiti, and the first time I was asked to speak at a university when I moved back from London was in Kuwait. That is why I was glad to find out that, true to their word, Nuqat founders Hussa Al Humaidhi and Sara Al Nafisi were popping up the next Nuqat festival in Dubai this year.
Many designers and entrepreneurs talk about future plans for growth and expansion, but years later, you meet them again to see that they are still talking, not implementing. Hussa and Sara, however, are clearly on a mission.
Last night, right before I passed out, I visited Nuqat’s website and checked out this year’s lineup of speakers and theme of the event, “The Lost City of Arabesque”.
I also sat through the 12 minutes of Al Humaidhi’s TEDx talk and was struck by something she said. She explained in a frustrated way that the hardest part about launching Nuqat in Kuwait was convincing the sponsors to invest in them and their concept of a culture event. They were not sure there was anything in it for them. And how true that statement rings in other parts of the region!
Part of what I do on a constant basis is to promote the local design industry. Part of Abbas Al Moosawi’s vision is to do the same. He is well over his 50s and I am half his age. And yet we are still struggling with the concept of getting investors to ‘invest in design’. Unfortunately, our general culture does not view this as a viable industry.
But that aside, a daily challenge for me is to constantly persuade corporate companies and ministries to invest in our youth, by facilitating their vision of what they think they need in their lives.
The campaign tagline would be: ‘Let us design something by us for us’.
One of the funniest obstacles I came across as a creative director was convincing one of our sponsors at Menatelecom that ‘Malja’ is the right name for the first public creative workshop space in the country. He kept saying that the name had a negative connotation and relates to being poor, helpless and a refugee. When I tried to convince him that it was the quite the opposite, that it was to be the hub that brought every artist and designer in the country under one roof for the very first time, he scoffed and said that it was a negative name, and what did I know? Straight away I replied that he didn’t get it because he was 65+ years old. He laughed as I doubt many people my age ever talk back to him. But he respected my confidence but still hated the name. And to that I say, “out with the old and in with the new”.
When do you think our young wave of designers and artists will be able to design something by them for them?
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.