Kinzy Diab & Christina Shoucair of Hayaty Diaries present “Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled” , their first group exhibition in London

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Committed to “celebrating the diversity and vibrancy of Arab culture”, Kinzy Diab and Christina Shoucair are the co-founders of Hayaty Diaries, an art collective supporting emerging women artists across the Arab World.

Diab’s academic background in Social Anthropology that she studied at the University of Edinburgh enabled her to deepen her knowledge on the complexities of human interactions and cultural dynamic, which she applied throughout various work experiences notably as a producer and director for music videos for emerging artists. As per Shoucair, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art and Psychology from Georgetown University and currently offers her support to the Deputy Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa at Christie’s.

Respectively of Egyptian and Lebanese heritage, Diab and Shoucair now live in London where they joined forces to create their artistic platform. Hayaty Diaries is an ode to their cherished Arab World, a region that has always been at the heart of their research and professional ambitions.

JDEED spoke with Kinzy and Christina ahead of their platform’s first group exhibition “Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled,” launching this November 29th at gallery@oxo in London.

by Anne-Isabelle de Bokay 

Tell us a bit about you and your backgrounds and how Hayaty Dairies came to life.

Kinzy: Our journey with Hayaty Diaries is, in large part, inspired by our personal experiences and cultural backgrounds. I am Egyptian and was raised in Cairo, while Christina is Lebanese and spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia. When we moved to London as teenagers, it marked a significant turning point in our lives. Both of us began to experience a sense of detachment from our Arab heritage. However, as we grew older, our mutual curiosity about our cultural roots deepened – this curiosity catalysed our journey towards creating Hayaty Diaries.

Both of us have professional backgrounds in creative fields (Video Production and Contemporary Art) and strong academic foundations in humanities (Social Anthropology and Psychology). So, we quickly developed a keen interest in exploring the intersection between art and culture. Hayaty Diaries serves as a means to facilitate our reconnection to the Arab world.

Through our art collective, we hope to bridge geographical and cultural gaps, fostering collaboration and understanding between Arab artists and London’s vibrant creative scene. Our collective efforts are dedicated to spotlighting the remarkable talent emerging from our region.
We’re committed to celebrating the diversity and vibrancy of Arab culture. Hayaty Diaries stands as a testament to our passion for our heritage and our dedication to ensuring that Arab creatives receive the recognition they truly deserve.

What does it mean for you to be an Arab woman in our society, in 2023 and, in your case, in London? Is it something that you feel the need to express in your daily life?

Kinzy: Given today’s complex geopolitical landscape, it has become increasingly important to amplify Arab voices, allowing conversations that challenge prevailing misconceptions. For me, being an Arab woman means embracing the responsibility to reclaim spaces and narratives that have often been misrepresented or silenced. In terms of Arab identity, I don’t necessarily feel the need to ‘express’ my Arab identity daily. Personally, the simple act of being an Arab woman and living my life authentically is, in itself, a continuous and natural expression of my identity. My cultural background is not something I put on or take off; it is an integral part of who I am.

As women growing a platform, we see it as our duty to pave the way for other voices from our region. By doing so, we not only hope to reshape perceptions but also contribute to a more inclusive and
empathetic society wherein diverse perspectives are acknowledged, respected, and celebrated. At our inaugural group exhibition, “Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled,” we encourage our artists to express their stories without the weight of external influential forces, including cultural and societal expectations.

By Sara Benabdallah

What motivated you to showcase the work of young Arab women artists and how do you anticipate the reaction of the London public?

Christina: What motivated us to showcase the work of emerging Arab female artists really stems from our personal connection and broader vision.

As founders, Kinzy and I share a cultural bond with the artists we collaborate with, uniting us through our shared identity as Arab women. We’re passionate about the vibrant creativity flourishing in the region and the power of our generation’s voices.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed a remarkable surge in the appreciation of Arab arts and culture, particularly in Modern art, celebrating artists who have indelibly shaped our artistic heritage. We’ve also observed a growing interest in Contemporary Arab art, which is incredibly promising. Nonetheless, the emerging art scene is still developing, and we really wanted to begin our journey there.

Our inspiration to collaborate with female artists comes from the significant evolution in how we define what it means to be an Arab woman and artist today, compared to, say, five, ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. We are in a constant state of growth and transformation, and we want to shed light on these dynamic changes, allowing others to perceive and appreciate our evolving identity.
Through art, we offer a glimpse into the diverse experiences of this generation of Arab women. This is something that is not as widely understood in the Western world, and we hope to change that. We want the artists we collaborate with to share their stories, reclaim their narratives, and shatter any preconceived boundaries associated with being an artist in this culture and from this generation.

With these motivations in mind, we are confident that the reaction from the London audience will be incredibly positive. There is a growing interest in expanding art collections to include our region and supporting emerging artists taking their first steps in the art world. We are absolutely thrilled about our upcoming exhibition, “Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled,” at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, in London, running from November 29th to December 4th. This marks the start of a new era for Hayaty Diaries, where we can introduce the wider public to the heart and soul of the women who are actively shaping our future – our youth!

Through our art collective, we hope to bridge geographical and cultural gaps, fostering collaboration and understanding between Arab artists and London’s vibrant creative scene.

Lovebirds by Yasmina Hilal

Do you find it harder to impose your ideas as Arab women in art?

Christina: Honestly, that’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many different layers to it. On one hand, I want to say no, given the current era where our voices seem more accepted and heard than ever before. Artists are increasingly inclined to be bold, outspoken, and express controversial ideas. Audiences, too, are more engaged and eager to listen, often fascinated by what artists have to say.

However, there remains a limitation in accepting the expressions of Arab female artists when their narratives don’t conform to preconceived notions of what an Arab woman is expected to feel, think, or believe. It’s a recurring narrative where Western audiences tend to celebrate art that portrays themes like female oppression or cultural criticism, as it fits into the stereotypes they understand as the Arab woman’s experience.
The real question arises when artists come out celebrating their cultures, sharing more positive stories about their experiences from the region, and delving into topics like freedom and liberation, rather than focusing on oppression and restriction. So, as I mentioned, this question is complex.
Nevertheless, we hope that by raising awareness about the diverse stories of Arab female artists, told by Arab female artists themselves, we can alter this perception. We want to demonstrate that we do not all fit into a predefined mould, we are not stuck in the past, and we most definitely are not all victims of suffering. We are living, we are creative, we are loud, and we are not striving to be anything other than ourselves.

“Through art, we offer a glimpse into the diverse experiences of this generation of Arab women. This is something that is not as widely understood in the Western world, and we hope to change that.”

How did the curation process take place and what drew you to some artists more than others?

Christina: When Kinzy and I first started Hayaty Diaries, we would spend hours on end researching emerging female artists and diving into their portfolios and Instagrams. We would then carefully select the artists who resonated with us aesthetically and kick start a conversation with them. It was really important for us to first and foremost develop a really good sense about who these artists were and their artistic aspirations.

Forming close relationships with our artists was extremely critical for us because our work heavily relies on collaboration, starting from the moment we welcome them aboard until the exhibition and sale of their work. It’s crucial for us not only to believe in their artistic talents but also for them to resonate with our mission. Since our artists create work exclusively based on our chosen theme, it’s essential for them to identify with our vision and embrace our thematic focus. As a result, the theme really serves as the central curatorial glue, shaping the exhibition’s narrative as a whole.

Having said that, as curators, our distinctive tastes are most definitely evident in our selection process. You’ll observe a common thread running through the artworks, characterised by an obvious boldness, youthfulness, and sense of imagination. We intentionally gravitated towards diverse artistic mediums, expressions, and styles, aiming to showcase the variety of art forms across the region and highlight the unique stories each female artist wished to convey.

More than anything, this exhibition serves as an introduction to the richness of emerging Arab female art for our London audience, highlighting our artists’ multidimensional identities, ongoing evolution, and the profound influence of their unique cultural heritages on their artistic styles.

What are the ambitions of Hayaty Dairies moving forward?

Kinzy: Hayaty Diaries aims to go beyond specific collaborations for London-based exhibitions. We seek to initiate conversations around all themes related to creativity in the Arab world and female artistic voices across various art forms, including fine arts, film, photography, production, curation, and more.

Through our social media channels, we have released a series titled ‘HD Conversations’ in which we engage in discussions with Arab women and men in the creative space. Another series we are passionate about is ‘Creative Hub’, where we join forces with incredible artists who have partnered with Hayaty Diaries to provide an inside look into their world of creativity. They share their personal stories, artistic processes, and inspirations with our audience.

Our intention is to promote art and spark discussions about the individuals behind it and the diverse forms it takes. As an art collective founded by two passionate Arab women who are dedicated to diversifying the creative space and amplifying Arab female voices, this aim is at the heart of our values.

“Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled,” November 29th-December 4th at gallery@oxo in London 11am-6pm , free admission

Cover picture: Christina Shoucair & Kinzy Diab
photographed by Fabio Modonutti Artistic Direction by Sana Jamali 

Exhibition Poster Design by Anne-Isabelle de Bokay 

More on Hayaty Diaries on Instagram