25-year-old Najd Altaher is the rising star of Kuwait. With photography and illustrations that exposes social politics and taboos, the young visual artist has toured in both the East and the West and won the prestigious Crossway Foundation award not only once, but twice. DANSK talked with the ambitious Altaher about the future of her career, the ground for her interests and her believes in her own work.
This interview is about emerging artists. What is the next step on your career ladder?
As an emerging artist, I’m currently focused on pushing my installations further. For what’s next in my career, I’d say to take part in as many creative collaborations as possible. I feel like there are so many different platforms out there and various creative individuals to generate ideas with and implement them along the way.
It is an extremely essential component to connect and overlap various cultures and backgrounds and then integrate them in our artistic delivery of the message and vision. Therefore, I hope that what comes next in my ladder is an opportunity to expand and inspire and be inspired in return.
Is there anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with? Why?
There’s no one in particular I would like to collaborate with, but I aim to collaborate with artists that somewhat share a similar mindset and outlook on the world. There must be a common denominator that we both share. I personally think that’s important because when two individuals believe in a certain message or concept then the outcome will be extravagant.
Do you find that the internet/social media made it easier for you to emerge in art or the contrary?
The internet and social media played a major role in opening so many doors for me. The internet has become our main medium to research and brainstorm. Research leads to content creation, and the by-product is then shared on the social media cloud. Today, social media has become the most resilient and accommodating tool for exposure. Social media has allowed me to reach a wider range of audience as it also connected me with a lot of fellow artists that I’ve collaborated with. I truly believe that when artists are unified the delivery of the message becomes stronger. I also believe that the internet played a big role in turning “the dream” into my reality.
What message is it that you and your fellow artists are trying to deliver?
The messages myself and other fellow artists vary. Mostly I touch on individuality, societal taboos, women empowerment and the journey of life. These messages resonate to me as an individual and the incorporation of these messages onto my artwork could present change. Other fellow artists would touch on the topics they personally resonate to. I have seen that there’s a certain pattern among artists in the Middle Eastern region. I think that most artists are trying to break all barriers for free expression.
Do you think you will succeed in breaking down the barriers for free expression?
I believe that myself and other artist have already broken down a lot of barriers. For example, touching on social issues in my photography and instillation is considered taboo in many places. When I’m consistent with addressing the issue and revealing the truth to people then the taboo chances into a stigma. I strongly believe in the direction I’m heading with my art and I hope that I positively influence the younger generation to express themselves moving forward.
Are there some themes that you find yourself and your art to come back around to?
I think my main interests revolve around social politics and identity. I’m very much intrigued by human behaviour. I constantly find myself trying to understand the society’s perspective as a whole. Moreover, I enjoy touching on taboos within Arab societies. There’s rapid progress taking place within the Arab region. Personally, I feel like changing the societal narrative through artistic expression is extremely important.
How did your interest for social politics and identity begin? Why do you find this change important?
My interest for social politics and identity began during different periods of my life. I found social politics to be fascinating since I was very young. I enjoyed breaking down the who, what and why things function in a specific order. Soon, I found myself in constant search for answers. In terms of identity, my interest began during transitional periods of my life. As I observed how one can evolve and grow; I was in awe of how we stick to our essence regardless of these changes.
Can you try to elaborate that?
I’m interested in understanding the way a whole society functions all the way down to how a single individual function. Whether we like it, or not social politics affect us individually massively in our everyday lives and sometimes people aren’t aware of the effect being present. That’s why I’m interested in dissecting sociopolitical issues; breaking it down to its roots and try to understand the who, what and why so that I can shed light on the matter and birth influence.
It is always easy for the observer and critic to label an artist’s work with a purpose – but, asking you, do your works have a purpose? What?
Every installation and conceptual photo I’ve created has its own essence and purpose of a distinctive message. I create to embody topics in a visual representation. It’s my form of expression. I always aim to tap on issues that almost everyone can resonate to. It’s also important to me that the viewer leaves with the contemplation of the subject matter. Expression and visual representation are two robust mechanisms that enable the influence of thought and ideology.
Many are talking about the pressure on we young people. Now that you have created (quite) some success, do you still feel this pressure? Did you ever?
There’s an immense amount of pressure to any individual embarking on a new journey in their field of interest. I feel like there’s still a big part of the art industry that still doesn’t take us ‘young artists’ seriously due to our age and modern insights. Contemporary art generally sheds light on reform. Whilst the art industry in our Arab culture is still somewhat static; reform becomes controversial. Our unrestrained expression are our voices.
Words by Mathilde Nielsen
For more informaiton, see Najd Altaher