The Crossway Foundation established itself as an empowering arts charity that helps facilitate better understanding across borders. Now, after two successful years of collaboration, it has formally partnered with the annual Middle East Now festival in Florence. The Middle East Now x Crossway Foundation Residency will be dedicated to supporting emerging artists from the region.
The recipient of the first residency is Omani-born graphic designer and photographer Mohamed Al Kindi, better known to his more than 70 000 Instagram followers and fans as Chndy. The 25-year-old, who currently splits his time between Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, has been working on a photography project titled Ali Baba Can’t Be Found Here as part of his residency. “The aim of Ali Baba Can’t Be Found Here is to tackle common stereotypes and misconceptions about Arabs and the Middle East,” explains Al Kindi to Vogue Arabia via telephone, commenting on the recurring themes of oil, camels, and the “Ali Baba’s” that often permeate dialogue. The project features images of places, things, and people that those in the West aren’t typically exposed to, or would associate with Arabs and the region.
Al Kindi’s first dalliance with the Crossway Foundation occurred two years ago when he applied for the annual travel and exchange programme targeted towards young artists. The photographer applied with a documentary about the effects of Japanese cartoons in the Middle East, and won first place and a trip to Japan to experience the culture first-hand. With this new residency, Al Kindi has the opportunity to share critical insights into Omani society and culture from his perspective as a young artist. “It’s an amazing initiative,” he says. “Oman is usually in the dark when it comes to art. You hear about art in the GCC a lot, but never Oman.”
During the weeklong Middle East Now festival, which kicks off on April 4, Al Kindi will display his work, host a workshop, and do a talk at NYU Florence. “I want to showcase other talented Omanis. I want them to know that there are real opportunities out there and that yes, you can do what you love as a full-time job rather than just a hobby for Instagram.”