Next Dubai speaker
Shivani Mathur had an aooportunity to have a conversation with Narmeen after her talk and here it is.
By Shivani Mathur
On Tuesday the 28th of August, we had Narmeen Naser from Dubai Jiggy: a platform for creatives boasting artists from over 72 nationalities, talking about Community. A community leader herself, she is someone that’s working tirelessly towards removing the stigma that Dubai isn’t culturally rich. Born and raised in Dubai herself, she’s always been artistically inclined herself, and loves creating a platform that helps showcase as well as connect artists to each other. I had the opportunity to interview her and get more insight into Dubai Jiggy and her own journey.
Shivani: You studied medicine and development. What’s your own story with art? How and when did you start becoming an artist?
Narmeen: I’m a very DIY kinda person, I taught myself how to sow, I love gardening, cooking, baking, I like creating things. I used to be like that since I was a kid, loved building things. I always wanted drawing and painting classes but I took up other co-curriculars like sports over art. When I went to university I wanted to study fine arts but because I was a good at science, my parents insisted on science saying that I need to build a science foundation now, I can always pursue art later on. I majored in science and minored in fine arts but it became too much to keep up with so I did one or two courses, loved it, but that was it. All my friends however are artists. I came back here and started working in the corporate world and during one summer, all my friends left Dubai. I was like a single professional out here even though I grew up here. I started pursuing all these things and going to jam jar – I never owned art supplies before and I just started buying canvases and just painting. I would go there 2 or 3 times a week and just loved it there, hated that they’d close at 10:00, I wanted to paint all night! It got expensive and eventually after 6-8 weeks of going to jam jar, I bought my own supplies and started teaching myself how to paint. I started art after I was already a working professional but I’ve loved art since I was a kid, I’ve visited museums in over 30 countries. It was never a top priority until that summer when I was all alone. 3 months into doing this, I put up my work for some art fairs and it actually started selling, it was the craziest thing and that was an incredibly encouraging factor – that people wanted to buy my work.
Shivani: Why the name Dubai Jiggy?
Narmeen: I had won a dance competition when I was 10 to gettin’ jiggy with it by Will Smith and it was my soundtrack to life. Since then I’ve been called every variation of ‘Jiggy’: Jiggu, Jigga, Jiggy; I used to play football in school and whether it was my name there, or my Instagram name, it was a name that really stuck. So, I called the platform Dubai Jiggy because of that, and I wanted people to understand that it would sort of bring the fun and art to you, make Dubai jiggy.
Shivani: How to steer people that have an inclination towards art to pursue art part-time, or full-time?
Narmeen: Artists are not easy to work with, as much as I love art, managing 500 artists can get difficult, they have their ego and I don’t want them to be too corporate but there’s no system of communication, it’s still new. Every artist that I speak to, there’s almost a new language that I have to learn. In terms of how I encourage them to pursue it as a livelihood, I just keep doing what I’m doing. I’m still building my foundation and that’s been hard enough. I can’t go to an artist and say, quit your job to do this because I myself can’t pay them or support them. I’m gonna keep doing my events and exhibitions and keep encouraging them to keep producing. I do follow up with artists who haven’t been producing art in a while and ask them why they stopped and encourage them to keep creating. I don’t see myself as a great artist but I do get to mentor a lot of young artists, young in the professional sense. It’s nice to be able to help new artists pave a journey.
Shivani: Is there ever a consistent theme that you’ve noticed that artists tend to lean towards?
Narmeen: Definitely. So, artists that are just starting out, they are (often) inspired by other artists who are prominent and sell a lot of work. They tend to follow more popular artists and over here, popular art includes horses and camels and Buddha and you see the typical ones everywhere – houses, restaurants; especially the young artists think that these are the ones that sell, and they definitely sell. I always try and tell people, if you try to go down that route as a young artist, you may lose your own path in the process and don’t find the ability to create your own voice because you become so busy creating what’s corporate and what sells. That’s what I try to do through my exhibitions, I’ll give them a theme or concept to think about and I won’t accept anything that doesn’t reflect that concept. I say ‘innovation and community’, even if they’ve chosen old artwork, they’ve got to find a way to reflect that. I ask them to think critically: whether it’s the artwork itself or the technique. Even when I used to do art myself I would look at the artists that I love and try to emulate the style. When you go the corporate route what you tend to do is lose your own voice and create only what people are buying, it’s just like creating mass produced goods, I don’t really think that that helps build the art community.
Shivani: As a catalyst in people finding people relevant to their art, what’s the most rewarding thing for you? There are many humanitarian causes and things that one can do even relating to art and community building but you chose something as unconventional as being a catalyst for artists to network and find each other. Where does this desire to help propel other artists’ dreams and creation come from?
Narmeen: That’s a really good question actually. For the longest time I thought it’d be cool to be an employee to someone, being a doctor, or working in a lab, working for someone. The whole idea of me being this sort of bridge for others and not having to work for someone else is an idea still new to me. It does make me different from my environment. Both my parents’ side of the family have a lot of humanatirans within them. My grandmother for example has built a lot of free orphanages, universities, schools and hospitals. I grew up knowing that my grandmother gave away everything that she earned to help the underserved. A lot of people in my family are teachers, it’s a giving society. The whole connecting and blogging and sharing resources thing is new, my own family asks me why I do it and the reason is simple – I like learning and sharing knowledge. I myself am quite in tune with what’s new happening culturally and I feel like as someone who has this insight into this world, I should give this information to the world. I myself have learnt so much form free resources online, it’s all about being part of this resource sharing economy.
Shivani: If two artists got connected and created something massive beautiful, it isn’t often traceable to you, not as much say, the achievements of a student that you teach an NGO. So what’s the reward system for you then doing so unconventional?
For me, the pride really isn’t in the recognition, it’s in knowing that I have taken someone one step further in achieving what they want or didn’t even know they could achieve. Connecting artists who didn’t think they could achieve much, to change makers that can; that knowledge makes me happy, that I helped create that impact, I don’t really need recognition for that. Most of the artists that I work with are way better artists than me since they keep practicing and I see that the opportunities that I provide them with help them win international competitions, being awarded even though they started just 2 years ago. They do often come back to me and say “this happened because you encouraged us, you were the first one to exhibit our work”. A lot of the artists you see, their work is being exhibited for the first time despite it being so beautiful since they normally can’t pay the fees required to have galleries and exhibitions showcase their work. Knowing that I’m helping build an art community, creating connections, and knowing that people who want to buy art can now source it locally is my reward system.
Shivani: I’m sure there are many challenges that you face as a community leader but what are some of the most prominent ones, ones that you’ve always faced and continue to face?
Narmeen: I’m the kind of person who always put 200%, whatever it may be. And because I’m an emotional person, it really hurts when people are all about constantly taking and not giving back. I love the artist community but every now and then you’ll encounter people who just intend to use you, they won’t support you but want your services. I’m trying to democratize the art here. Most art galleries and fairs will charge artists to showcase their art but I don’t. Events and exhibitions usually take about 6 weeks to plan and if at the end nothing sells, that’s very difficult, especially given that I’ve charged artists nothing. I’m doing this full time and there’s always this thought, “Should I just go corporate? This is what I love doing but no one here seems to appreciate me”. That’s definitely a challenge.
Another challenge is that sometimes because I’ve built relationships with my artists often I can’t be very professional. We have WhatsApp conversations and become friendly. That’s the downside of becoming a community, you become like family and because you become like family you tend to lose out on professionalism. I’ll have an exhibition and say, “the last deadline is 2 weeks prior” and I have artists messaging me 2 days prior asking if they can take part and because I’ve become friends with them, it’s so hard to say no. I have started to be and am trying to be sterner with restriction and only accept genuine excuses. Every new exhibition I get like 50 new artists and like to give opportunities to new artists and therefore have started not giving in to requests by artists who were simply lazy and didn’t respect deadlines – since that wouldn’t be fair to other artists.
Shivani: With such a large community of people to lead, doesn’t scheduling and meet-ups become a major concern? How do you deal with it when artists don’t show up to meetings or not come through with deadlines?
Narmeen: Honestly, now that my community has over 500 members, if they miss out they miss out I won’t follow up with them. But initially when I had started, I’d send at least 7 follow-up emails to them, both artists and change makers. They’d have to fill out questionnaires and it was difficult to get them to do that. With change makers for them to take time, I understand, they’re change making. But it would take a long time and after they’d respond I’d connect them to artists who would take ages to respond, sometimes just disappear… only to say 3 months later that they’re ‘just not inspired by the project’. We didn’t have a website then and manually following up and connecting with these artists. Artists who have worked professionally, in the corporate sector are much better that way. A large part of my community are older women who have never worked before and students.
The good thing was that the artists, we didn’t have any kind of track record to say that we’re gonna sell art for you or that we’re super established. But the fact that there were artists who were putting in time to put in time and effort into an impact project when they could have been creating work that would definitely sell, that was definitely amazing. If someone randomly comes up to me as says “I want to commission this to you” I’d say you have to pay me initially. We were commissioning all this curated artwork and the fact that even some really prominent artists did it for us as well was amazing, it was time spent away from artwork that they could really sell. That was a really great part about working with artists with great integrity and vision and want to do something that’s greater than them.
Shivani: Has Dubai and UAE: the people, the community, the enterprises the government sector: the local network greatly helped Dubai Jiggy?
Narmeen: If I tried to do what I’m doing here in a place like say, Canada or Australia and I say these two because they’re the places that I’ve lived in; it wouldn’t work so well because they’re older nations with more established art networks and just getting your foot in the door to help artists connect with one another would be a struggle. All my artist friends based in Canada don’t even paint anymore, they’re all in corporate jobs. They didn’t have sufficient art related opportunities because it’s an already saturated market. For me who has studied medicine and not arts is so involved with the fine arts here, I credit that to the UAE because you can shape and grow things. There’s a sense of collaboration here especially since artists are coming from so many backgrounds, there’s a willingness to make things work here.
We have our 1st CreativeMornings Dubai podcast to share, Narmeen’s talk.
Next week we are back with CHAOS on September 19th!
A conversation with Scott Chambers
By Shivani Mathur
Here is a look at the morning with Scott in pictures.
It seemed that every time Scott turned around there was a conversation waiting and that is a great morning.
We love it when those attending are on social media letting others know they are missing a great morning.
Coffee is our fuel.
Smiles and high fives, love it!
And when CM becomes the place friends are meeting we have done it again!
Oh, and a snack with the coffee is always a treat.
Deb is in the middle of explaining the morning icebreaker, sadly Deb is moving from Dubai to a new career.
We love icebreakers.
Scott gave a great talk and we look forward to him hanging with us at CM_Dubai!
Kat Kinsella daring you to take your fear and give it the back seat, have the COURAGE.
By Shivani Mathur
As promised here is the link to go and listen to the PLAYLIST for the month as pulled together by Dale.
Want to see the photos from this month, go to the Flickr feed.
Here is a taste of Courage this month.
Join us April 17th for GAME!
CreativeMornings is on the 20th of March and this is going to be another morning to not miss.
Kat Kinsella-Fernandes will be joining us for the theme COURAGE.
Tickets are live now.
What’s your story?
When a creative block strikes or an overwhelming fear manifests, which of your life stories dominate your thoughts?
…a list of horrendous failures that way your brains and stop you from doing that thing….
Or heart-strengthening triumphs, small or large, quiet or loud, that help you breathe and take that step…?
From time to time, accessing our inner lion and quieting the brain-monkeys may take a little work.
If a little work is needed, come to this CreativeMorning on Finding Courage.
We will explore our pathways to today and it’s power over us. Using a blend of positive psychology and other approaches, let’s move towards breaking the blocks to our creativity and beyond.
Who is Kat?As a researcher, lecturer, coach, and parent, Kat Kinsella is fascinated with how our stories impact our lives for the better. Kat brings a blend of positive psychology and research approaches for everyone at CreativeMornings to access our own inner strength to our creative lives and beyond.
John Bucher Talks Curiosity
John’s talk is coming soon.
Here is the link to his Q&A where you get a sense of the morning.
By Shivani Mathur
“If we don’t feed our curiosity, we will starve it.” Says mythologist, content creator, but most prominently, in context to this feature, curiosity advocate, Dr. John Bucher. Curiosity to me, is the most paramount element in creating something worthy of being deemed even remotely genius. It’s not only what feeds the soul, it’s what fuels quite possibly, your destiny. I was 6 years old when my mother strictly told me to stay away from blades, it was the twisted (but might I add, entertaining) curiosity within me that nudged the rebel inside me and made me question “Why even? What is she on about? Let me cross-check and see if she’s even right” …and proceeded to run the blade across my finger. I underwent a deep, painful cut that troubled me for weeks after but at least my curiosity was quenched. This trait continues to follow me, it’s why I indulge in esoteric extreme sports despite not being particularly athletic or fit, hop on board with absurd last minute plans, and often take up vague, arduous projects. Despite the sometimes unpleasant consequences of my attempts to feed my curiosity, I live with zero regret, have the funniest stories to share, and surprisingly enough: more than decent accomplishments and sufficient enough stability.
In the talk on the morning of 20th February, Dr. Bucher spoke about lots of themes and phenomena that ties with curiosity: storytelling, problem solving, the global patterns in storytelling that stem from similar curiosities. He shared a profound anecdote about how he finds wax museums compelling because they manage to offer metaphors that represent moments in time and also left us with something very thought provoking when he said, “Writers can learn just as much from culinary chefs as other writers.”, indicating how learning is constantly accredited to the diversity that we maintain in our curiosity, and not in set algorithms contained within curricula.
I was lucky enough to be able to have a pleasant chat with him after the talk and ask him some questions, here’s an excerpt.You pursued your phD in mythology, which you yourself too admitted is an obscure discipline. What attracted you to mythology? My interest in mythology really it can be traced back to storytelling and story itself. I am interested in a vast number of things and it became difficult for me sometimes to narrow down what I wanted as a job description for myself. And so eventually I stopped looking at my life that way and so what I did instead was I began to look at my life like an ecosystem. And at the centre of this is story. I have this mountain range of documentary film making, I have this river of writing and books, I have this desert area where I work with theme parks, I have this jungle where I work with escape rooms, and so all these things make up an ecosystem around story telling for me where I don’t have to be interested in just one aspect of story, I can have all these many interests. Now mythology is one of the most significant parts of my ecosystem and the reason I became interested in it is because of my interest in psychology. I’m really interested in why and how human beings do what they do and so that psychology intersects with storytelling in mythology. Mythology is really the intersection of psychology and storytelling. In mythology, we study everything from fairy tales and classic myths to also theology and religious traditions, so we study in depth Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, all the religious traditions we study because we view them all through the lens of mythology. These are our stories that people use to make sense of the world and make sense of their own lives. And that was a huge interest to me because I love stories, but my favourite kind of stories were the types of stories that helped people understand something about themselves, about their role in the world and how they can make the world a better place for all of us. I’m also especially interested in stories of what are called underdogs, those that often have been at the fringes and margins of society, so I’m very interested in stories of women, minorities and people groups that have not always had the advantages as the most dominant in a group of people of a culture, so I think mythology often addresses the plight of those people groups, something that’s important to me. Even in my own country, though I am part of a people group that is dominant, I have become very aware of the privilege I enjoy as being part of that, and equality is very important to me, and I wish to use whatever privilege I have to help increase the equality of others that may not have always enjoyed that, and I think mythology speaks about that, I’ll give you one example. Every culture I’ve ever visited, has some version of the Cinderella story, the Cinderella story is an old fairytale originated in France, but every culture has some version of that story, and I think why that story, why that myth resonates with so many people is due to the fact it gives hope, that we can be at one station in life, and one day we can move to a higher station in life. I think as human we need the hope that we can move to higher stations in life and that is an innate part of being human, the desire to have a better life for our children than we did for ourselves and I think the only way we can do that is to make just a little bit of progress, make our lives a little bit better. That is really why mythology became so important to me.
You spoke about fear hindering people’s creativity. I wanted to ask you, has fear affected your own creativity before? Absolutely, fear for me often manifests itself in the fear around perfectionism. I often become afraid to start projects because I fear that they won’t be as perfect as they are in my head and that will be frustrating to me. There is an old story about a pottery class in a university. The story goes that on the first day of class the instructor divided the class in half, there were 20 people in the class, and the instructor took 10 students and put them on one side of the room, he took the other 10 and put them on the other side of the room. The instructor tells the first 10 students “I want you to spend all this year trying to make 1 perfect pot. I want you to gather together, measure research and spend as much time as possible to make one perfect pot” The other 10 students the instructor told “I want this group to make as many pots as possible, don’t worry about the quality just make as many pots as possible”. So the students focus on their projects, the first group they measure they research, they do everything they can to make the perfect pot. The second group just make pots all day long as many as they can. At the end of the year, the instructor took the first groups pot, which they had worked on all year, and still found three small blemishes in the pot. The other group, the second group, had made over 300 pots, and 5 of those were perfect. And there’s a good lesson, that sometimes we spend all our time trying to make the perfect project, the perfect piece of art, the perfect story when really the secret to overcoming the fear that surrounds that perfectionism, is creating as much work as possible and in doing that we will make pieces of work that are near perfect they are wonderful. But if we spend all our time in fear that our work will not be perfect, we waste a lot of our time that we could spend into developing ourselves as better artists.
You said as creators, it’s okay to put away your phone. In a time where google answers nearly all the questions and aids creativity, can you elaborate on why creators need to keep their phone away?
I love technology, I’m a big fan of tech. However our current tech has eliminated a great deal of mystery from the world. When I was a little boy if I wanted to know about tigers, I had to ask my parents to take me to a library, I had to ask the library for books on tigers I had to read those books, I had to put in a lot of hard work, but also my imagination would fire and I would imagine things about tigers. Now the answer to any questions I may have, I can get at the drop of a hat, in my pocket, and while it can be wonderful it also eliminates much of the mystery in the world, I don’t have to imagine things about the world because I can see immediately the truth of all the details about whatever I’m imagining. For example I might have wondered how it smells inside the Taj Mahal, but now I don’t need that imagination because I can go and google how it smells inside the Taj Mahal and a thousand people would have said this is how it smells inside the Taj Mahal. And so, it eliminates that mystery that bit of work I think that we have to do as creative is find how to employ technology with its greatest effect in our lives without eliminating imagination, without eliminating mystery which are both necessary components for the highest degree of creativity. It’s not that technology is bad in itself, it’s when we become lazy and begin to rely on it that it begins to overtake our natural imaginative powers and our imagination becomes these muscles that are weak and not powerful. So don’t let technology rob us of our natural imagination and creativity that lives inside us.
In what way does story telling solve problems? I love this question. Storytelling solves problems because it’s based on how human beings solve problems within their brains. The biggest use of storytelling in solving a problem however is that human beings don’t tend to make decisions based on logic, even though we think they do, but human beings make decisions based on emotions, we make decisions based on how we feel, not what we know. We change our minds not hen we see a collection of facts, but we change our minds when we hear someone’s story. So, if I disliked a certain group of people, you could present all the facts to me as to why that group is people are valuable or worthy, but it wouldn’t change my mind. But meeting and getting to know one person from that people group has more power to change my mind on how I feel about that group of people more than anything else. I believe that offering the world better stories, and helping the world to tell a better stories is one of the best thing we can do as creatives. There have been many many examples throughout history on how a single story has changed an entire culture in a short amount of time.
Why do you think we owe it to ourselves to feed our curiosity?
Our curiosity is what provides a pathway to meaning in our lives, if we are not curious about how the world works, how things work, our lives become boring, they become meaningless. And much violence comes out of a feeling of meaninglessness, it comes out of a feeling of purposelessness, and there’s not much good that comes out of that feeling that there is no meaning to our lives. So, curiosity is necessary to help us I’ve out the best version of ourselves, and we owe it to not only ourselves to be curious but to all those who are living around in this world with us. If we are trying as human beings to make this world a better place we need every voice, we need every person and we need every person being the best version of themselves they can be to accomplish that.
We had a great morning with John and an eclectic mix of professionals and students.
There is always time for a selfie.
The coffee is the 1st place the morning people head for.
Morning people smile a lot!
We loved having an opportunity to speak to John after the event. And as you see from the image (look close) we wanted to make sure we had enough water for John.
ANXIETY is a huge part of our lives and how we deal with it can mean the difference between success or…
By Shivani Mathur
Anxiety is a phenomenon that affects us all in some degree, shape or form. For some, it’s a momentary reflex both caused by, and a consequence of – fear. It’s described by many to be a feeling of utmost suffocation, the epitome of nerves, and often accompanied by accelerated heart rate, nausea, and overall discomfort. For many, anxiety is an illness that plagues them so deeply, it manifests itself in their everyday life. It becomes an embodiment of a large chunk of their intrapersonal challenges and hinders them from attaining their full potential in both their micro and macro endeavors. For centuries, decades, and years,Anxiety and Mental Illness have been almost taboo subjects.More often than not, it would make you the subject of petty whispers to so much as acknowledge and validate these issues, let alone proclaim that you possess any form of anxiety disorder or really any mental illness. Albeit not a whole lot has changed on that front, there have emerged within corners of society, schools, workplaces, families, large groups of people who have started to educate themselves, and started to seem anxiety and mental illness to be equivalent to any physical ailment of illness. A lot of this is accredited to the boon that is the internet culture: while there is a plethora of nastiness that exists and gains outreach via the web, so do people’s stories and experiences via blogs, podcasts, and social media, in utmost frequency and detail. This, as well as other art and media outlets (socially conscious films, television shows, articles, books, and music) on the issue being green lit, at least helps the matter to be discussed on dinner tables, offices, lunchrooms, and classrooms even if 8/10 times it’s millennials that bring up these ‘difficult’ conversations. It won’t be a millennial this time however, giving an insightful talk on the subject in the first Creative Mornings of 2018.
CONTEXT is Everything!
Did you miss Marcus Smith from www.innerfight.com talking about CONTEXT and how it has a role in literally every aspect of what we do?
Then you will want to get a look at the video!
Always a pleasure to listen to Marcus.
Here is the link to the Facebook LIVE video of James talking on the death of Leadership.
December is all about context!
Marcus Smith is an extreme athlete, entrepreneur, coach, context re-assignment specialist, marketing idea guy and lover of good coffee.
Whether he is creating a fitness brand, a lifestyle food brand, a clothing line or motivating people to “smash life” Marcus has demonstrated over and over that context can be turned on its head to create a powerful message and call to action.
Marcus brings his enthusiastic take on telling a story and turning it on its head to CreativeMornings.
The Death of Leadership with JAMES KELLEY