We've been featured on Banat Collective
follow the halo has recently been featured on BANAT COLLECTIVE in an article titled "Meet the Women Who are Supporting the Arab Arts Scene". You can find the link to the article here. The halo team is so humbled to be featured among the likes of Jdeed Magazine and Azeema Mag, and I am truly honored that our hard work hasn't gone unnoticed.
But, after reading the article, I realized that we've rarely explained the story behind follow the halo. Apart from the about page of this website, we never really talked about what the arts mean to us and we why do what we do. So, I decided to write a short essay for our readers on the story and aims behind this project. I really hope you enjoy reading and that it gives you an idea of why supporting our work means for the Arab art community.
"follow the halo is a project that came out of my search for ways to truly support the arts in our region. I’ve always been surrounded by artists (my sister and co-curator is a practicing fine artist!) and I’ve always understood the challenges they face. I also know this from personal experience, being a trained filmmaker and aspiring visual storyteller.
Unfortunately, the arts are generally seen as a “recreational” activity as opposed to a meaningful part of life. To me, art is a form of cultural production and a way for communities to flourish. I think we underestimate the impact and meaning that the arts give to life. The arts help us to cultivate tolerance, understanding, empathy and provoke freedom of thought. These things matter and therefore artists should be supported. And by support, I mean truly backed, including financially. Because art is seen as a “recreational” activity, those interested in cultural production often don’t give it the support it deserves — i.e. giving artists the platform to express themselves freely, to be able to have a critical dialogue about their work and to be PAID for it. Artists need these things to sustain their work. In turn, their work enriches our societies.
That being said, I decided to create a start-up that supports the arts as authentically and in the most grassroots way possible! I was so inspired by the DIY feminist zines of the 80s and 90s, which were influential independent publications made by women in the United States. These zines brought together artists, thinkers, intellectuals, and poets together to champion women’s liberation. They were very influential despite being grassroots. So much so that these zines were also adopted in communist Eastern Europe. That was my main inspiration, to do good and bring it back to basics.
That’s how I created follow the halo, an online publication that gets sent to your inbox once a month, which commissions one artwork per issue and gives the commissioned artist the space to express their thoughts and ideas. The issue also includes interviews with ‘culturalists’ and artists in the region, often critically discussing the theme of the month. We also accept submissions - which we share on our platforms - but our main focus is to support and back one artist every month. It’s like every issue is a mini art-residency!
On the other hand, we often use the commissions from the issues to produce products that generate funds for causes in the region or to reimburse into the platform to support more artists. Our first collection - which is almost sold out! - was in support of Medical Aid for Palestinians. We made 3 tote bags that used works from past issues by regional artists Rama Duwaji, Shahad Nazer and Beya Khalifa. We currently have a future collection underway which I am so excited about - this collection will go back into the platform and give us the funds to commission more artists.
My aims for the future of follow the halo is to continue to sustainably and authentically support young artists in the region. I want us to challenge the idea that art is simply a recreational activity. I want halo to be a reputable publication for critical dialogue on the arts. I also want to continue to share the diversity of the arts in our region and show it to the world! Many of our readers aren’t based in the region and I always receive messages of people saying: I can’t believe there’s so much arts in the Middle East. I am always stunned (but proud) when I receive those messages.
So far, every issue has been a milestone. I can see our work growing more with every issue and creating momentum and impact. I love how all the artists we’ve worked with are becoming a little community, they all follow each other on Instagram and support each other’s work. This gives me so much pride. The platform is also attracting more artists from the region and we are connecting with other publications - like Banat Collective - that have the same aims as us. This sense of community is so valuable, and I look forward for all of us to really get together and shake up the arts in the region."