Sometimes I take my deepest sentiments and try to represent them in a light way.
– Zahra Marwan
In this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast, we’re joined by Zahra Marwan, a Kuwaiti artist who grew up between two very different deserts: Kuwait and New Mexico.
“I thought my upbringing was pretty normal, until I grew up and realised not many people grow up between two different cultures”, says Zahra, “Not a lot of Kuwaiti people live in New Mexico.” And, after living between desserts, she decided to study in Paris and then in Lyon.
Growing up, Zahra had an uncle who was a painter, with much of Zahra’s work centring around family stories and story-telling. “I suppose there are a lot of family stories to feel more grounded”, says Zahra, though she is inspired by day-to-day conversations, especially those she cares about.
Zahra has just put the finishing touches on a book tentatively called Home, about not wanting to leave Kuwait as a child and moving to New Mexico. “It contradicts the regular immigrant experience”, she explains, “I was very welcomed here.”
One thing that is special about Zahra’s work, is its endearing and childlike quality. “There’s a certain light-hearted feeling in watercolour”, she says, “The people are very simple, they always have triangle noses and dot eyes.” And speaking of watercolour, Zahra likes the medium because she can add layers.
During lockdown, Zahra’s been drawing from home. Speaking of the work she produced during this time, Zahra says that it has become more focused on memory as opposed to things she’s been seeing.
In the future, she is hopefully having an exhibition in Florence next April, as well as making some work for a hot air balloon festival in New Mexico. Zahra also hopes to create more picture books.