Kuwaiti Blogger Highlights Middle East Art Scene
We interviewed Mashaael Basheer, Kuwaiti Journalist and Art Blogger about her perspectives and experiences working in media, and her support of artists and art movements in the Middle East and around the world.
Can you share with us a little about your personal background, and what inspired you to pursue a career as a journalist and art blogger?
My name is Mashaael Basheer, 27 from Kuwait. I hold a Master’s degree in Modern Communication and Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication & Journalism and currently work as Editor at the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
I am a person who is constantly seeking new challenges in life, never living in the same routine. My first challenge was insisting on studying Journalism at university when my father wanted me to study Political Science. To be honest, it was a struggle to convince him because at the time he did not see journalism as a “feminine-career.” But I was determined to change his mind about my aspirations in journalism, and thankfully I succeeded!
Why did I choose journalism as a field of study and career? Firstly, I am a curious person. I like to know, understand, and be a part of everything going on around me in society. I believe that interacting with others and being a part of what’s around us is what make us human and prevents us from being “passive” members of society. Being a journalist meets this need.
The other challenge in my life was my choice to be a journalist in art. I have loved art since I was a child, and after completing my graduate studies, I have found time to return to it. I took few courses in drawing to refresh my knowledge and passion, but it did not become a serious part of my career until I decided to write an article about a young Kuwaiti artists’ group exhibition back in May 2011. I published this article on the KUNA website – and because (KUNA) is a government sector, you can imagine all of the bureaucracy and permissions I had to obtain, just to publish a news piece unrelated to government, politics or economics! They gave me a hard time, but eventually published it. It was then that I decided to start my own blog and write about art.
You see, every challenge and closed door leaves you searching for new opportunities and opens your eyes to new paths you were not aware of before. I am grateful for every obstacle I have faced because they were what kept me pushing forward, and breaking away from standard norms and expectations.
What can you tell us about your experience as a woman working in these fields?
Being Arab, woman and journalist combined is challenging at times, and perceptions of my work change depending on what I focus on. The work of journalism in political affairs is sometimes taken more seriously. Some people think I run my blog just for the allure and luxury of art, but I take it very seriously – to me, it is a second job, and not a boring one!
In my blog I combine three things I love: art, writing and journalism. When people working in Art see the dedication I have they appreciate what I do, encourage and support me and I consider myself lucky to reach artists, patrons and gallery owners in less than a year and build with them strong relationships based on trust and mutual appreciation.
Another element of success is family support and thankfully, mine understand my passion and commitment to art and allow me to travel on my own to cover events & exhibitions around the Middle East. Sometimes I travel twice a month to cover two different happenings in different countries.
Can you tell us about your project Al Mahha and its vision of supporting artists and art movements around the world?
Al Mahha is an art blog aims to support the art scene in the Middle East and encourage younger people to be involved on what’s going on around them. Al Mahha’s vision is that art is part of culture and culture is what gives any society unique identity. I believe that by supporting art, I support culture and highlight its many different aspects.
The concept that “Art is for everyone” is sometimes thought to be exclusive to the Elite, but I disagree. Art is inspired by people and all people should have access to art, regardless of their age or background. For some reason, there is a missing link between artists and younger people, many of whom feel intimidated by the idea of visiting a gallery or art museum – the fear of “not understanding art” holds them back, and that’s where I come in.
Al Mahha covers exhibitions and art fairs, interview artists and reviews their artwork. It is different from other art blogs because it features critiques and analysis of art. I should also point out that Al Mahha is a not-for-profit blog and I don’t get any financial income from it.
What insights can you give us about the role that art can play in cross-cultural understanding?
As I mentioned earlier, I believe art is part of culture thus the more you are involved in art activity the closer you come to understanding your culture and other cultures. Let’s put it this way – one can understand and know other societies by the way its artists present their art, how they portray particular ideas or issues. For example, you can sense how strongly the church has influenced society from the number of religious famous paintings, including the ugliness of Spanish civil war depicted in Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica.“
In the Middle East, because of what’s going on with the “Arab Spring” countries, and ongoing Syrian revolution, art in the region is booming and exploding as artists are interpreting the events. As a person who both works for the media, and is involved in art, I can tell you that media can be deceiving and agenda-driven, whereas art is probably the most genuine form of communication, able to document what’s going on around us without saying a word.
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The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.