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The Vanguards: Five Regional Creatives Pushing Through Boundaries in Various Fields

The Arab world is home to remarkable captivating individuals across myriad fields. From street art to furniture, haute couture to installations and beyond, the depths of creativity emerging from the region is limitless. These talents are to be nurtured and celebrated as they gain prominence on the international stage. Vogue Arabia scouts the region to handpick some of the most exciting talent of today.

Khaled El Mays
Furniture designer, Lebanon

Photo: Sara Fileti

Khaled El Mays’s debut furniture series, Rhizomes, launched in 2013 and his work has been going global ever since. His designs are crafted by local artisans and the materials are sourced from the world’s finest suppliers. “I’d rather think of design as stepping outside of trends and try to create things that speak to the present first and be viable in the future in terms of not just objects, but also ideas manifested,” says El Mays. Inspiration comes from everywhere; an idea is merged with history and past concepts that result in “a visual and functional balance.” He recently collaborated with Dior to reimagine its Medallion Chair for Salone del Mobile 2021, extending the back upwards and giving it leather fringed feet. El Mays’s work is represented at the Nilufar Gallery in Milan and he is currently working on a small solo show for Design Miami 2021, the Miami Beach Edition, with House of Today.

Noura Bin Saidan
Street artist, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Lorenzo Agius

Noura Bin Saidan specializes in street art, and she is one of the talents being celebrated by NEOM in its #IamTheChange campaign to mark Saudi National Day. Her work is not graffiti in the traditional sense, she shares. “I met a mural artist from Spain and he told me not to refer to myself as a graffiti artist because the connotations can be negative. So now I say it’s mural art. It’s public art. It’s street art.” Fine art combined with modernism, Bin Saidan’s works are veritable paintings. “I juxtapose dark shadows and light. I use a lot of color and florals and also traditional Saudi elements, in particular the Najdi and Assiri style and patterns,” she says. One of the artist’s biggest accomplishments was turning her master’s thesis into reality by transforming gray streets with colorful paint. “I am most proud of the mural I painted on the underpass on King Khalid Road in Riyadh,” she notes. Her work has also graced the streets of Spain. Bin Saidan has grand plans. “I want to make murals in all the tourist attractions in key places in Saudi to help promote my country and also to take my art outside of Saudi – London or Miami are my dream, because they have truly international art scenes.”

Rumi Dalle
Installation artist, Lebanon

Photo: Tarek Moukaddem

Rumi Dalle’s artistic journey began with her collecting objects and artifacts from the 19th century. She experimented with fabrics, too, eventually discovering installation art, the creation of which has led her to become a rising star. “All installations run on a single trajectory of resuscitating numb senses: a certain memory, an emotion, a certain light. While mostly abstract, medium indeed is the message,” she says. Dalle won the 2016 Boghossian Foundation Prize, has exhibited work at Nomad’s St Moritz, and collaborated with international brands, including Hermès, to create unique installations that connect with audiences on an emotional level.

Mashael al Rushaid
Gallerist, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Harun Dogan

Art collector Mashael al Rushaid creates engaging experiences for all audiences and brings people closer to art. She launched Heist Gallery and a residential gallery space in London so people could “get a sense of what it would be like to live with artwork.” At the 2019 Venice Biennale, Heist put on She Persists, which brought together a collection of works that drew from the commonalities on the female experience, showing pieces by artists from around the world. She later formed Creators, a turnkey solution for governments and cultural institutions to conceive concepts and produce and manage artistic projects. “Art in all its forms is an extremely powerful medium to actualize change. Throughout history, art has provided a platform for freedom, truth telling, and sharing one’s story regardless of political constraints,” she says. Working out of London, al Rushaid is currently creating a platform for NFTs and a project revolving around immersive theater.

Andrea Brocca
Fashion designer, UAE

Photo: Namida Mila

Half-Italian, half-Sri Lankan designer Andrea Brocca grew up in Dubai and has been hailed as the world’s youngest couturier, dressing stars such as Lady Gaga and having his work featured on the cover of Billboard magazine. “My debut collection is called Equilibrium. It’s a study of divine proportions and universal geometry: a balance between organic form and innovation. I created it using mathematical sequences seen within nature,” he says. “My artwork is intuitive. I sit in front of my mannequin and just let the creation flow until these shapes come up. It’s the same as sculpting a block of marble – hit it, carve it, dig at it, until you find the diamond.”

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Originally published in the October 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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