Controversial Artist Mawadda Mohtasab

By Tahira Baker

Tell us about yourself. Why graffiti?
I’m a 19-year-old amateur filmmaker, calligraffiti artist and motion graphics student at Dar Al Hekma University. I love to express myself through different forms of art but especially graffiti art. Why? Because it has no limitations, and in my opinion it’s one of the strongest and loudest forms of art in the field.

What’s the message behind the art?
My main message behind this art is to first and foremost prove to people that graffiti is not vandalism. Also I’m saying hey, I’m a Saudi woman and I can do this. Graffiti is not just for guys. I’m breaking the stereotype. I do try to send messages to society in an indirect way. I use this more in my digital illustrations and it’s something I’m still working on improving.

2There are other graffiti artists in Saudi Arabia but most of them are men. How does being a minority in that sense affect your artwork? What are your limits, if any, and different approaches to the art itself?
It does affect me in a sense, and my work but I don’t look at it as a barrier. I take it as a challenge instead. It makes me want to prove even more that I can be a graffiti artist, I can be whatever I want to be and I can be something in this society.
The thing is, men have more accessibility to walls, they have more freedom to go and paint whenever they want. They get the chance to practice more than we do since we don’t always have the place. Some female graffiti artists have parents who are still hesitant about the fact that their daughter is doing graffiti and it’s ‘supposed to be for boys.’

However, I still don’t see it as an obstacle, I try my hardest not look at it as such. Limitations? A couple of years ago I faced a few because of my parents; at the beginning they didn’t support it but now they do. For example I recently went to Dubai to participate in the longest graffiti wall; that’s progress of course.

3Who inspires you?
I’ve met all sorts of artists, starting with my mom. My mom is an artist and my dad is a photographer, so I grew up in an artistic environment. Every artist I’ve met has had a huge influence on me. For example, El Seed; he taught me how to build my own style, how to be proud of my own style and how to create it in the first place. I love that he’s humble and he taught me to be a humble artist. I’ve met Abstract, from Miami, and I’ve met Malaysian artists. I can’t list them all, but what I’m trying to say is, they all influence me but at the end my inspiration is me. I inspire myself to become better. When I wake up I picture myself being better or giving my best, and this in itself is my inspiration. So who is my inspiration? It’s me but the better me.

How did you start?
I started out by sketching on paper. Three years ago I started painting on walls. It was hard in the beginning because of limited space, but my parents were very supportive; they provided the roof for me to practice there. There are events here but it would be ideal if we had a park where we could paint and enjoy ourselves without being bothered by anyone.

4Where has your work been featured?
A couple of years ago my school had an exhibition called Kicking Canvases and it was featured in Destination Jeddah. It was basically 12 students from my school who organized the exhibition. I displayed a lot of conceptual art, illustration, posters and statues. More recently in 2014 I was in Brazil when I won the Create and Inspire competition organized by Edge of Arabia. Before I left Brazil, I made a simple Calligraphy piece on Casa Tomada. It was such an amazing experience and my work was featured on the Create and Inspire website. And of course Dubai 2014, the longest graffiti wall.

5Where do you plan to take graffiti in your future as a designer?
Graffiti is not just a hobby. It’s a style I try to identify myself with, especially now I’m developing my reversed Arabic style, and I relate it to my being a motion graphics designer. In ten years time I still see myself practicing graffiti, maybe not on walls, or fewer walls but more digitally. It depends on my work pace or and whatever it is I’m doing at the time.

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