IN COLLABORATION WITH MEGANE QUASHIE FROM FEMXLE FIRST SESSIONS AND CREATIVE CONSULTANT SOPHIE EMMETT
With the ever-changing landscape of Middle East and North Africa F Word, in collaboration with Megane Quashie from Femxle First Sessions and creative consultant Sophie Emmett, wanted to shine a light on how the current times are affecting the youth – voices in countries that are rarely represented in the media. Through outsourcing a variety of creatives from these regions, we have asked for a digital time capsule that we hope will contribute to awareness, education and building bridges.
Illustrator and designer Nora Zeid lives between Cairo and Dubai. Her illustrations are like photographs as they depict a moment in time. Nora discusses how a city such as Cairo, which has often either been romanticised or ruthlessly criticised, cannot be reduced to a one-liner. Nora is honest and open as she discusses how her city keeps her grounded and pushes her to question how as a society, we could benefit from putting things into perspective without losing empathy, and just how that might affect us positively.
NORA ZEID / 23 / CAIRO - DUBAI
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing with current world issues?
Nora Zeid: I think my biggest challenge with our current world issues is how to put things in perspective without losing empathy. I always ask myself: How do these world issues fit within the bigger picture, within history? Thinking of that and taking the time to do research allows me to calm down and process things rationally. It relieves my anxiety. But that can also lead to apathy. “Oh look, another horrible event, what else is new?” which can be dangerous, because we still need to help as much as we can. Spread awareness about people in need. Understand their struggle and donate. So it’s a balancing act and that in itself has really been my biggest challenge.
How would you describe the mood of your city?
N.Z: I really cannot pretend to understand everything there is to know about my city. I learn a little more every day. If I had to describe the mood, I would describe it as culturally rich, lively, and bustling. It’s chaotic and mad. But it’s real.
"Somewhere in El Moez Street, Cairo"
How does your city inspire you to be creative?
N.Z: Cairo is just layers upon layers of history and culture. I don’t want to romanticize the city’s struggles, yet there is a certain resilience to it. Every time I go there it feels like a reality check. It keeps me grounded. So I would say it does the same thing to my work. When I draw its streets and people, I feel closer to it, like I understand it a little bit more.
What is one mis-conception about your city?
N.Z: I think it's the “either/or” mentality that people have when looking at the city. Some refuse to believe anything good can come from it. Others say it’s wonderful and then refuse to discuss any of its challenges. As if this thousand-year-old city can be reduced to a one-liner. Cairo is so beautifully rich and complex. I wish more people accepted that. If change for the better is possible, I think that would be the first step. It's so much better to spend time researching, understanding, and appreciating Cairo, with its ups and downs, rather than be quick to cast judgment.
"Also somewhere in El Moez Street, Cairo"
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