PODCAST: Gallery Girl meets Bayan Dahdah

In this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast my guest is Bayan Dahdah, an artist based between Doha and Amman. Bayan is the creator of a gorgeous digital scrapbook as well as an artist’s stool called the sarj seat

“In nursery I used to be the last kid in the class still colouring”, says Bayan, “My mom would come pick me up and my best friend’s dad told her ‘your daughter’s going to be an artist.’” Bayan comes from an artistic family full of many architects, explaining that she fell into art naturally and at university she studied architecture. “There were so many different degrees that I wanted to try out”, she said, “My parents said study architecture – it’s considered the hardest art related subject – and then you can just go from there. And that’s exactly what happened. It taught me all the skills that I need.”

Bayan Dahdah

If you follow Bayan online, chances are that you know her because of her digital scrapbook, which combines photographs with illustrations and text.  “I always saved everything with the intention of creating a scrapbook”, explains Bayan, “I have so much stuff that I just keep, I’m quite a sentimental person, now I scan them and unpack what they were.” With an interest in travel and travel photography, she started the scrapbook in 2018, as a way to combat the overwhelming number of travel photographers on Instagram. “It was so saturated”, she explains, “At the same time [as taking photographs] I would take a sketchbook and sketch…combining the images and sketches became my niche.”

A page from Bayan’s digital scrapbook

In addition to her scrapbook, Bayan makes things too, having created an artist’s stool in 2019. “They always say design is problem solving”, she explains, having encountered a problem while studying in London. “I would be sketching a lot”, says Bayan, “I’d go to museums and sit and sketch…I found I’d always be on the floor or my papers would fly everywhere and it was so impractical for an activity that I loved so much. So I thought I’d love to have a stool that allowed me to sit and sketch wherever I want.” The resulting sarj seat is part easel and part stool and became a key feature in an artist retreat she worked on in 2019 with Baraka Destinations, a company in Jordan that promotes slow tourism. Bayan led a trip to Um Qais where the participants sat and sketched in the ancient archaeological site. “It was just paradise,” says Bayan of the experience, and she hopes to host more in the future. And, as well as the retreats, Bayan has been leading visual art workshops for children aged between 11 and 13 with photographer Tania Habjouqa. The workshops provide visual ways for children to express themselves through sketching and photography, and Bayan and Tania are working on formalising their curriculum. 

Bayan’s sarj seat

Most recently, Bayan has joined a platform of photographers, artists and writers called Ruwa, which means storyteller. “We hope to help anyone who’s looking to work on a project, we want to help, offer mentorship, workshops”, explains Bayan, “We all come in with our different skills and we want to help reclaim the narrative and help as regional people instead of going abroad for help.” And as for the future? Bayan is planning to move to Dubai and hoping to take a trip to London. “I’m just trying to be more present, as cliche as that sounds”, she says, “Just to let things play as they come, without worrying too much about what’s coming.”

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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