However, due to lack of resources, many of these artists lack the ability to reach bigger audiences and get their names out there. They need someone to believe in them, give them a stepping-stone and provide an environment where they can flourish and bring their purpose to life. And that is what a place like ‘’Haven For Artists’’ is for.
Co-founded by Dayna Ash and Yasmine Rifaii, Haven For Artists is the home you don’t only get to dream of, but also get to engage with. It gives talented and expressive minds a platform that only means to encourage their individuality, help spread their names and support them in any way they can to achieve their goals as artists and activists. This NGO is all about breaking barriers and fearlessly catapulting the domain of great minds that are roaming the MENA region and internationally, who all share ideals of culture, art and human and social rights. We interviewed Dayna and Yasmine to learn more.
By Khaled Alameh
Dayna Ash & Yasmine Rifaii: “Haven for Artists is a self-funded, feminist, women-led all-inclusive arts organization (NGO) that has opened two cultural and safe spaces for artists, activists, and advocates for freedom of expression and equality, while focusing on women’s and LGBTQI rights. We host cultural, civil and social initiatives through our open discussions, civic engagement campaigns, and collaborations with other local NGOs and actors in the field of civil, human and social rights.
Our goal as a cultural organization is to be the intersection of art and activism. This is an ideal that lays the foreground to the nature and aim of our collaborations. Haven for Artists exists to support and empower marginalized communities, in Lebanon, specifically the LBTQI+ and Women’s community. Therefore, the majority of our collaborators are institutions, organizations, as well as independent artists and activists, whose work and research focus on the same principles. We tend to focus on expressing and fighting these oppressions through arts and culture, but we pride on our flexibility in the services we offer; when Haven had a spacious community space, we made sure the members of the community knew that our headquarters acted as a safe space as well.
If people needed a place to stay, to crash a night, running away from bullying, threats, and/or domestic violence, we made sure we can always offer a roof, on the side of our ongoing programs and artist residency. Our form and the way we present ourselves and our services is ever-changing, taking into consideration what the community needs and requires at the time. We believe in street action, and interventions. Existing on the edge of politics did not stand in the way of us defining our identity as an opinionated, unapologetic and engaged entity. Haven, like any other organization, exists in the oppressive system, but shapes itself on its own terms and beliefs. We hope that structure, ethos and outputs present themselves as a form of resistance to the status quo.’’
Dayna Ash & Yasmine Rifaii: “We share our platform with various artists, with various backgrounds, experience, mediums, visions and approaches. Our only “rigid” rule is for the artist and the art itself to follow Haven’s guidelines and principles regarding social politics awareness and political correctness. We want the art that we support to have a positive impact that aims to solidify and implore social change and awareness. We’ve worked with both international, regional and local artists, with our priority being the artists from the MENA. The point of this prioritization is very simple, we want to give our platform to the voices that are least heard -especially on an international scale and/or lack the tools and opportunities to do it independently.
The world of funding is challenging and requires a certain type of experience, but it does not always prepare artists and activists with the tools, facilities and support they might require to reach their goal. Not without having to edit, compromise or alter their vision to fit that of the funding bodies’ guidelines. We would like to circumvent that. Arts and culture are a subtle, essential and non-confrontational arm of any social and cultural movement.
Offering a creative space/gallery, events and campaigns that engage with ideas and issues often not addressed in the region is valuable not only to women and LGBTQI persons who seek a safe environment, but also for the general public who are made aware of human rights abuses and inequality through the art and advocacy that Haven offers. Without this outlet rights for women and LBTQI individuals will lose an integral tool to activism.’’
Dayna Ash & Yasmine Rifaii: “Since its creation, Haven has pushed and supported emerging artists. We believe in the youth, in the richness of their thoughts, their new approaches to fighting oppression with their personal tools of expression. We also believe that emerging artists are the ones who need support most, whether its’ financial support or artistic guidance. We are always willing to provide and lend a hand through any means available to us. We believe that by creating a community and a network of artists, cultural and social NGOs, activists and social entrepreneurships, we are building a basis and a connection that everyone can benefit from.
This is specifically useful to emerging artists in our opinion because the context that they are emerging from currently pushes them to seek for tools, platforms and opportunities that are unfortunately not always available. First and foremost, we are aiming to ensure that these artists have a wholesome platform to emerge in and from. A space where they know they are allowed to discover, experiment and grow fully, without restrictions or limitations.
Our approach is always horizontal as we realize that we all have something to teach and learn from each other. Through that approach, we provide help to emerging artists by creating a sense of community and exchange, building bridges that are available to all. The youth is the future, and emerging artists are the future of art. And we aim to support this development of art, thought and their impact. We aim to fill the lack, which young and emerging artists face in the art world that has a tendency to alienate and devalue on the basis of access with a monopoly on outputs and success.”
Discover more about Haven For Artists, here
Cover picture / Art by Christina Safatly