While most of us spent our teenage years rebelling and getting into trouble, Najd Al Taher spent her time creating scrapbooks in homage to her favourite musicians. It was through this love and thirst for visual harmony that Al Taher became interested in graphic design.
The 24-year-old Kuwaiti artist then went on to pursue a degree in art at the American University of Kuwait, graduating with honours in 2016. Al Taher has become one of the region’s few winners of the Crossway Foundation Award (not just once, but twice).
In a quest to not be pigeon-holed, she has become a fully fledged multidisciplinary artist that’s just as known for her graphic design work as her bold, colourful photography. In late 2016, Al Taher held her first solo exhibition, entitled Fulfilment at Dar Al Funoon.
Her series, and much of the work she’s published over the last couple of years was intended to shake up the region by offering a look into its diverse perspectives, and dismantling taboos.
We caught up with the artist to discuss juggling different mediums and how the region inspires her.
How did you get into graphic design?
I didn’t know anything about graphic design. I went to public schools in Kuwait and they never taught us subjects related to design, but when I made the fan book, I really surprised myself with the way I managed to create it from scratch and that’s when I discovered I have a passion for the art and collaging in particular. As for photography and videography I’ve always played with cameras and created short videos ever since I was young. It started with VHS camcorders and film cameras back in the day and evolved with time.
You’ve experimented with quite a few different mediums – which one do you feel aligns best with your creative output?
After practicing them all with time I realized they’re all pretty similar. I used to think videography gave me more flexibility and a bigger impact in delivering my message but I discovered that I was wrong and conceptual photography and graphic design could be as strong if used in the right way.
What is the inspiration behind your work?
I always have a youthful and a modern approach to every project I do. Aside from my personal perspective towards whatever issue I’m discussing through my work, I aim to be the voice of the youth, and always try to put their perspectives and point of views about taboo subjects out there, most of the time in exaggerated quirkiness, but always raw and straightforward.
How does the region inspire you?
Everything inspires me in the region: the culture, rich history, laws, different mentalities, architecture, all the strong female figures and so on.
What are some challenges that come with being a creative in the Middle East?
Having people accept me as a young artist and take my point of view seriously. I feel like we’re still not there yet in that field but we are definitely getting there right now.
What can we expect from you in the future? Any exciting new projects?
I am currently in the process of creating two new series that combine conceptual photography, installations and performance art which are hopefully going to be relieved soon. One of them is going to feature Kuwaiti Poet Farah AlWugayan’s poetry and I’m very excited about what’s cooking.