Bayan Abdullateef on encouraging women to be more vocal and share their stories.

Get to know Bayan Abdullateef and her motives of her work.

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Bayan Abdullateef. I was born in 1993 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Graphic Design from Dar AlHekma University in Jeddah. Currently, I work as a freelance graphic designer and a visual artist. During my time of study, I learned that graphic design and visual arts are a powerful tool that can help in shedding light and raising questions that could eventually lead to changing minds and influencing others. In my work, I almost exclusively talk about things that frustrate me, as an outlet for me and in order to participate in a wider conversation.

What influenced you to start being creative?

To express myself and to discuss the topics that interests/worries me.

What worries you?

Sexism around the world but especially in Saudi Arabia. The lack of women’s rights, the indifference to the injustice that women face every day. It’s astonishing to me how people are just not interested in the lives and experiences of women. It’s interesting simply because women are people too.

And when was the first moment you were introduced to art?

At school from the age of 9 until graduation, I got to take many drawing/art classes but they weren’t appealing to me at all. Maybe because I wasn’t very good at them but I remember them being very boring, basic and definitely irrelevant. We were given a topic that we had to draw and that’s it. Originality was not of great importance. The fun thing though was that I got to experiment with many mediums in high school.

I think it was around the age of 14 that I was interested in creating art that I cared about. It was mostly fan art. In 2007 through online forums and experimentations, I learned how to use photoshop and I still use it until now. In University, I was introduced to proper art history, fine art and works that are interesting and relevant to me.

What message do you want to give through your artwork?

I always find myself discussing sexism or religion or both, simply because they are inescapable. I hope that it makes people think more about sexism and I hope it encourages women to be more vocal and share their stories.

You say themes of sexism or religion or both are inescapable, expand more, tell us more about these topics in relation to your thoughts.

They are not escapable because in Saudi they’re not conceived as a personal expression or choice. Gender and religion are very real aspects of a person’s life and they can determine the quality of an individual’s life. Being different or having a different interpretation from others can have major real life consequences, especially if the person is vocal and public with their thoughts and beliefs. Even the ability to hide who you are can be a privilege that women and POC don’t always have.

What inspired this idea that you submitted to us?

Around the age of 12, an Islamic teacher of mine compared women to matchsticks and how they are only usable once and after that, they get thrown away.  The series submitted is part three of “My Most Precious” project which was inspired by the countless times where girls were compared to consumable objects like diamonds, pearls, treasures, flowers, fruits, candy, pens, cigarettes and so forth. I’m particularly interested in deconstructing what such analogies signify in terms of how we think of women within society. I approached this project from a variety of angles and I experimented with a number of media including collage, digital art, performance art and installation. I eventually settled on photography because I simply wanted to try a medium that is new for me. My idea was to make a series of portraits for objects.

Why do you use such materials in your work?

I try to experiment with as many materials as possible because it’s exciting and I got to learn a lot. Being a graphic designer majorly influenced me as an artist. My work is mostly digital because it’s easier to control, edit and carry around and when I’m done I can just print my work. This way my studio is on my laptop. At the same time, I like to experiment with making collages and photography.

What is your favourite artwork that you have created in the past and why?

“Matweyat” is a series of cheaply designed booklet covers that replicate the bad design of the freely distributed religious booklets of the 90s and the early 2000s in Saudi and other countries.

It took me a while to finalize the idea, the visuals and the layout but the execution took me one day. Even though the visuals are aesthetically the worst I’ve ever done but it spread more than any of my works and I really enjoy the extreme reactions that I get from people online when they see it.

The works: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

What is your most important artist tool? 

My laptop. I’ve used it in almost every project but I try to use my hands more often.

What are your thoughts on being an artist in today’s world?

It is better than ever because we have better technologies, better opportunities, better learning methods and better, easier and faster ways to share our works.

What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative or what advice would you give to someone?

The best advice that I got was to explore my initial ideas as far as possible and not subtle for the first idea that comes to my head. The advice that I’d like to give to others is to do works for themselves and not for anyone else.

Who are your favourite Arab artists at the moment?

To be honest, I appreciate many Arab artists and friends but like I said I work to express myself, and so I’m selfishly interested in my own work and messages. Though the Arab world has endless amazing talents and ideas in it nowadays.


Get to know Bayan:

Social Media / Website: Instagram: @bayanabdullateef



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