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ZAHRA AL-MAHDI

ZAHRA AL-MAHDI

“The idea that nothing but silliness should be taken seriously makes almost everything easier.”

 

Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Zahra, but everyone calls me Zouz. I’m a visual artist, a writer, and a filmmaker. I create cultural productions with a philosophical backdrop, but I value silliness and nonsensical content over everything.

Tell us about your education.
I have a degree in English Literature, so my background is in philosophy and cultural studies.

Tell us about your career journey.
I’ve always been a tinkerer and an artist. The first art activity I participated in was with the Out of Kuwait Residency in 2012, which led to another art show extension in London the following year. My work on Instagram developed a very good following and I slowly became part of several active creative communities in Kuwait and the GCC region. My ‘doodles’ have expanded into different types of graphic narratives, animated clips, short films and music videos.

How do you manage your time? Describe your average day.
I wake up relatively early and currently spend the morning animating for a short film I’m working on. I try to fit my socializing time around lunch and the afternoon to bond and connect with other creatives, which helps me plan future projects. Evenings are usually reserved for attending events or staying home to work more on my projects. Also I draw, animate, edit videos, write or compose music.

What is your biggest strength?
I appreciate silliness.

Do you have any weaknesses?
I really appreciate silliness.

Have you made any mistakes that have made you stronger?
I wouldn’t call them mistakes but misconceptions. I’ve had idealistic ideas about how the art world was supposed to change the world with ideas. After getting to know other artists, I’ve come to realize that creative ideas are almost worthless without communities to execute them. Much like any innovative idea from any discipline or field of knowledge, it takes a community.
Another issue that every cultural producer faces is that of representation. I’ve had to accept that I would never produce artwork or a film that does all social groups justice, or represent anything accurately. The mistake I made was trying to represent certain issues accurately. It made my work better because I learned to produce work that is more porous and accepting of a wide array of interpretation.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced during your career?
As cliché as it may sound, it’s having others pay attention to a certain idea I have without having to advertise it in a particular way. Most of the time it’s not how good or valuable an idea is, it’s how the idea is packaged and sold. I’ve come to acknowledge, accept, and be fairly skilled at advertising ideas that are worth selling and, even more so, worth buying.

How do you stay motivated during challenging times?
Again, silliness. The idea that nothing but silliness should be taken seriously makes almost everything easier.

What do you do to relax?
I watch a good movie or read fiction.

What has been your proudest moment so far?
One time I put an extra umbrella in my car and it rained that day. I was so proud of myself!

What is your biggest fear?
Being in an unimaginable situation that could never be turned into a joke, ever. A living nightmare.

What is your favourite quote?
“This is not a just image, this is just an image.” Jean-Luc Godard

Name one item in life you can’t do without.
My phone. It’s a very important tool, like any tool, when used wisely.

Share three books on your nightstand.
Kiss of the Spider Woman – Manuel Puig
Everything Sings – Denis Wood
Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others – Sara Ahmed

In your opinion, what are the three keys to success?
Discipline, working with other people and jokes.

What is next for you? What would you still like to achieve?
I’m planning a lot more work that helps show how the hierarchy that values sciences over humanities is destructive to all disciplines.

What advice would you give to young women starting out in their career?
Networking is everything. I personally identify as an introvert, so saying this is not the easiest. Networking is not just for exposure opportunities, it’s important to be relevant and be a part of a community. Cultural production is ineffective outside of active communities.

How does it feel to be a CP Woman of Substance?
I’m not sure of how I’m supposed to feel in response to a title. I feel pretty much the same I do every day, which is cool enough.

Your message for the team at CP magazine:
Thank you for your efforts and for helping creative voices reach out.

 

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