Plant Enthusiast – Artist
Meet Athari Al-Mutawa – A horticulturist currently working for the Public Authority of Agriculture and Fisheries (PAAF) at the Department of Seed Technology and Development. Athari is also currently working on her PhD at the University of Antwerpen, Belgium at the Department of Plant Bioengineering, Groenenberger. She is working on research on deposition rates of particulate matter (PM) in dust, soil and plants in Kuwait using native plants as well as plants in urban areas. It was real fun interviewing Athari and learning more about her love for plants, arts, and her future plans.
What did you study?
I studied applied science with a major in horticulture at the university of Queensland. Then continued later on achieved my masters in urban horticulture at the university of Melbourne, Australia. Although, I would like to give a shout to Proceso T.Ramos Jr. my colleague and guide into the world of Kuwaiti native plants.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
I’ve always felt like a had a deep connection to nature where I’ve felt at one with it. I think. Also, Kuwait has a lot to offer as we have such unique flora and fauna that’s unique to the Middle East as well to Kuwait itself that is undervalued and underappreciated.
What sparked your love affair with plants?
There is that sense of wonder and awe to see a barren desert suddenly transformed to an array of jewel colours and to reflect on the process behind what these plants had to do survive the long hot punishing summers of Kuwait. It is quite fascinating.
What was the first plant you fell in love with?
The first plant I ever had was a Purple Heart which I believe I got when I was around 9 years old. My dad got it for me on a trip to Wafra farms, I practically killed it by over caring for it, I over watered it and I actually don’t think it lasted a week with me.
What is your very favorite plant and why?
I Actually, really love my echinopsis from mini my cactus collection it been one of most doted plant I have because it has travelled with me all the way to Kuwait, it almost did not make it here so we have had quite an intense relationship.
Are there any plants you’ve had to break up with?
Yes, for sure I’ve had to give up an Areca palm because it had an aphid infestation and it had to be isolated as it was patient zero and I didn’t want the insects to transfer to other indoor plants I had. Sadly, the neem oil treatment didn’t work so it had to be given away to a nursery to see if they could treat it.
Why are plants so important in the world?
They are important as they are a part of a life cycle that is interconnected. They ensure our survival with the help of animals and insects of course.
Any tips for looking after houseplants?
Get to know your plants there is a no size fits all methodology towards caring for your plants each plant is unique in its own watering, pruning, fertilizing and propagating regiment.
Is garden design an art form?
Yes, because you need to think about what colors complement one another, which forms and shapes also complement one another and the overall aesthetic of the place. “How am i trying to make it feel? is going to be colourful? Or more like a Mexican vibe or more pruned and tidier? “European aesthetic, or a more tropical aesthetic?” where it more lush. Additional thoughts go towards complementing the construction or the building in order for it to be inviting and for there to be cohesion between the two also taking consideration of the location and the user’s preferences all play a role in how all the final results is attained. However, it must be noted that there is a science behind it as well as; plant form, growth habits, water fertilizing and soil need to be considered to ensure the gardens success and longevity.
What is your creative approach when evaluating a site for a new design?
There are distinct steps that I take when evaluating a new site these are:
1-Check out the site, the amount of space available and assess the sunlight, soil and infrastructure that is already in place.
2-Have a consultation with the user on what kind of garden the user wants (edible, romantic, modern, low maintenance, family etc.) and their budget.
3-Selecting plants, that match the location, user’s needs and budget that complement one another and give a year-round interest.
What are your future plans?
Career wise I hope to continue working in the field of research focusing on sustainable landscape and urban infrastructure development. While the dream, is to eventually own my own farm growing speciality crops and taking more time to pursue my art and see where it leads me. Although as the saying goes “if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans”, so who knows.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I love to exercise going to the gym helps me to destress and focus, as well as read books usually self-help, art, plant and romance genres and paint or draw in my free time.
You are also an artist?
Please tell us how and when did you discover this talent? My parents used to enroll us in summer time activities in the school holidays the usually involved swimming or karate and it wasn’t really my cup of tea. They noticed that I liked to scribble quite a bit in my school books and decided involving me in art maybe a better use of my time.
What mediums you use and where do you take the inspirations from?
I used to do oil painting and pencil and pen sketches but lately I have been dabbling with watercolors.
Most of my inspiration come from things around me and my everyday experience with the plants that surround me.
What message you like to convey through your art?
A sense of playfulness, more of a whimsical feel nothing too serious. Also, sometime try not to plan too much and just see where the art takes me as there are no rules.
What do you do with your art? Do you sell or exhibit them somewhere?
My art is more of an outlet where I like to express myself, with no really intention of selling or exhibiting it solely for financial gain but if an opportunity arose where I could at least share it for viewing pleasure I wouldn’t mind. So far i generally i give some of my work away to friends and loved ones.
Your message for us at CP magazine.
To grow more greenery around yourselves and get your families involved it is such a lovely bonding experience as well as reaping all the benefits that plants give us whether it is: physical, emotional or mental well-being! So get planting!
CONCEPT & STYLING: FATIMA AL-JUTAILI (@f_jay23)
DIRECTION: JAMEEL ARIF (@jameelarif)
MAKEUP & HAIR: AMBREEN (@ambreen.rmua)
PHOTOGRAPHY: GORGY (@gorgy_8)
FLORIST: THE BOHEMIAN FLORIST (@thebohemianflorist_kw)