Long and Lost in the Abstract Abyss of Helen Teede’s Art

Reem Al Suwaidi (@LumeiRee)

Reem Al Suwaidi (@LumeiRee)

Column: Habillez-Moi (which means “dress me” in French)
Reem is a fashion fanatic. She used her talents of critiquing to start a blog called “We Voice Fashion” along with a partner that shares her views on the world of fashion and design. Through her column, she likes to explore fashion in a philosophical way at times.
http://wevoicefashion.com
Reem Al Suwaidi (@LumeiRee)

Examining loss in Helen Teede’s “Unhomed” exhibition in which she reflects on the loss of her home in Zimbabwe.

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (twitter: @DanaAlAttar, Instagram: @madewithlove.dxb)

A large, strikingly painted canvas by Zimbabwean artist Helen Teede was one of the few paintings that struck a chord with me during Alserkal Avenue’s opening night last March. The artwork at hand, titled “Shifting Grounds”, created within me heightened emotions with the use of materials such as oil paint, graphite, rain, soft pastel, oil bar, and wax crayon. The piece is a part of Teede’s exhibition titled “Unhomed” at Showcase Gallery, which features abstract elements drawn from the artist’s distressing story of losing her home.

Artwork: Shifting Grounds, from Helen Teede’s exhibition: Unhomed

The story behind the exhibition centers on the effects of a crisis that occurred fifteen years ago in Zimbabwe – with how the government began seizing lands that belonged to white Zimbabweans after Mugabe claimed land reform. The title itself “Unhomed” was adopted from Homi K. Bhabha, the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature in Harvard University, who has produced a series of books addressing the issues of cultural and racial differences. It is very much apparent why Teede would look to his ideas for inspiration. In his book “The Location of Culture”, Bhabha shares his divisive theory of post-colonialism and shares incidents that were faced by migrants, not to mention including recurring themes such as homelessness, which are also present in the artist’s paintings.

In addition, Teede’s paintings refer to the mental process in which she underwent during the time her home was claimed by the Zimbabwean government. Her artistic motives were underpinned by a push and pull factor, thus further serving as the inspiration to her creative approach. The abstract drawings provide a narrative to her story, while the notes in the paintings underline memories she experienced while still inside the haven of her home.

Pieces like “Soul Structures (v)” and “Soul Structures (i)” illustrate disorder and instability, which show how Teede initially channeled her feelings by capturing moments when moving around her previously owned land. Though before the artist drew anything on the canvases, she would leave them outdoors to be stained by the rain as a background.

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For me, the paintings invoked a feeling of utter tranquility and collectiveness. When staring at her creations, it more or less feels like being immersed in another space that is not attached to the constraint of time. And even though they are a testament to her anguish, it seems that Helen Teede was successful in engraving her memories of home into her art.

What is Native Advertising?

Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

Shof holds a Master’s degree in Marketing and a Bachelor in English literature. Avid reader of classic literature, her preferred type of fiction, along with psychology and marketing. Skilled at drawing, created a comic book, not yet published. Dedicated her Instagram feed to bookish recommendations. Fond of language learning, taught herself Japanese. In her column Thoughts of a Reader she reviews books, writes short stories, and talks Marketing.
Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

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What is native advertising, and why should you change your advertising ways?

Artwork by Nouf Bandar Elmoisheer (Instagram: @naufba)

Advertisements can be annoying. According to AdWeek, roughly nine out of ten people skip an ad if able to. Due to the intrusive nature of advertisements, we’ve trained ourselves to ignore them. Consumers hear the mark of a commercial break and go grab a cup of water. Even while surfing the net, they pay no attention to the sides of the screen where ads are usually located. I’m sure such coping mechanisms are not the outcome advertisers intended. Naturally, advertisers recognized the problem and started working on a solution, which in this case is an advertisement that is not meant to be annoying and would fit in as a regular content. With that, the concept of Native advertising emerged, frankly, an advertisement in disguise.

Native advertising is the newest tactic in digital advertising. It is simply an ad that doesn’t look like one. It blends in with whatever it is you’re viewing, and it doesn’t disrupt the flow of content. It takes the form of original content, instead of saying buy this product it’s great, it entertains or benefits the consumers. If this strategy was used in this magazine, it would look like an article, and if it was used on Instagram, it would look like a post. Advertisers can convey the desired message in a subtle and smart way instead of an ad that is flashing in your face interrupting your viewing.

BuzzFeed, a news and entertainment company, is known for its reliance on native advertising. According to Business Insider, Buzzfeed’s revenue from the year 2012 to 2013 has tripled to $46 million even before the end of 2014. Instead of using flashy banners, the company switched to ads pretending to be content (Native Ads). Buzzfeed makes money by creating native advertisements for different brands. Summer Anne Burton, the Executive Creative Producer of Buzzfeed, explained it in an interview on Media Post. She said “We want to make content that’s branded and that fits with what’s already on the website. We want to make things that people love and engage with. Advertising is a much more pleasurable experience when the ads are interesting, cool and fun. The experience is better for the reader. The goal is not to fool anyone or blur the line, it’s to make really fun, great advertising that people will engage with and enjoy. We label everything as a sponsored piece of content” (Elkin, 2016).

The popularity of Native advertising is soaring, it is seen today more frequently than ever. You might have seen one today but didn’t even realize it. My favorite example of which is an “article” on the New York Times titled Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work. It is labeled at the top “Paid Content by Netflix and Orange Is The New Black”, the latter being a TV series about women in prison.

The article starts with talk of the increase in numbers of women admitted in U.S. prisons. Then stating issues relating to women inmates and supporting that with statements of specialists, statistics, and graphs as well as appealing illustrations. Doing that, the article was providing useful information about a topic related to the product. Within that, a quick mention of the real reason for this whole article. Swiftly, in this quote, the message intended was delivered, which was spreading awareness of the product. “In an August 2013 op-ed in The New York Times, Piper Kerman, author of the prison memoir Orange Is The New Black, which inspired the Netflix series of the same name, calls the distance between women prisoners and their families ‘a second sentence’” (Deziel, 2014). There, the sole purpose of this article, promoting the show. It was not out of place, it fits nicely with what preceded and what followed. This is how Native adverting is done, it should look nothing like an ad yet achieve its purpose.

I’d like to close with another excellent sample of native advertising, this time seen on Buzzfeed. It is a promoted post for a video game, a joke that only fans of the game would get. It looks like a post by a player of the game, you wouldn’t think the brand is behind it until you notice the ‘paid post’ label. Compare this to a banner on the side of the page, with a bland call to action that you probably didn’t even notice. The bottom line is, native advertising works.

Brand is Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, published on October 31st, 2013, source.


References:

  • Donaton, Scott. “Why Brands Need to Skip the Ads and Start Telling Stories.” – Adweek. Adweek, 19 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 May 2017. <http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/why-brands-need-skip-ads-and-start-telling-stories-170905/>.
  • Weinberger, Matt. “BuzzFeed Pays Facebook Millions of Dollars to Promote Its Clients’ Ads.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 12 May 2017. <http://www.businessinsider.com/buzzfeed-native-advertising-is-paying-off-2015-8>.
  • Deziel, Melanie. “Women Inmates Separate But Not Equal (Paid Post by Netflix From NYTimes.com).” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 June 2014. Web. 12 May 2017. <http://paidpost.nytimes.com/netflix/women-inmates-separate-but-not-equal.html>.
  • Elkin, Tobi. “BuzzFeed’s Native Ad Leader: Create Content That’s Fun And Doesn’t Trick Readers.” 06/01/2016. Media Post, 1 June 2016. Web. 12 May 2017. <https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/277057/buzzfeeds-native-ad-leader-create-content-that.html>.

Is Emotional Intelligence An Option?

Hessa AlEassa (@Hessa_AlEassa)

Hessa Al Eassa writes to inspire, shift perspectives and make individuals aware of themselves and their potentials. With her creative pieces, she aims to reach the hearts and minds of her readers for them to have a better life. She is highly interested in topics such as psychology, self-help, and wellbeing. She is a dreamer, an optimist and she finds beauty in the little details of life.

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What does the term “Emotional Intelligence” mean? Why do we hear about it frequently? And do we really need to adapt it to our life?

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (twitter: @DanaAlAttar, instagram: @madewithlove.dxb)

It is a Friday, and the family has gathered together as part of a weekly ritual. All members of the family are anticipating the usual entertaining anecdotes. Some are sipping on their saffron tea, and others are enjoying the aromatic Arabic coffee. One of the family members, the one who fills the place with laughter, receives an unexpected message on his phone.

With every sentence he reads, his face grows pale, which makes the entire living room fall in silence. “What’s wrong?” his worried sister asks. “One of my friends passed away,” he breaks the news with a heavy heart. “I am sorry to hear that, was he ill?” she asks. “He was a healthy man but never at ease,” he pauses, and then continues, ”He was emotionally unstable and stressed because of his bank loans. I have always wondered how he reached such an unstable financial and emotional state. He was my classmate at school and he excelled in all subjects”.

What was the reason behind his sudden death? What causes a happily married couple to suddenly crash and part ways? What is the reason behind the depression of successful employees? Why do we hear about many violence incidents, drug abuse, and eating disorders? All of these events may seem distinct from each other. However, the common factor between them, are the emotions that were felt at first but were not handled well. (Goleman, 2010)

As human beings, we all go through inevitable life events and with each event we feel different emotions such as sorrow, shame, loneliness, and anger. But we take the wrong approach to dealing with these emotions. The main reason behind this is because we were not taught how to handle them. Numerous times we have concealed our sadness with that extra full-fat meal or with a mouthful spray of whipped cream. At other times, we tried to silence our anger with the unusual three-hour long nap. Because of our weak judgment of others’ emotions, we have misinterpreted that someone hates us, and we allowed that dark shadow of loneliness to eat us up. Therefore, the concept of emotional intelligence is a great guide that we can use to handle our emotions in a smarter way.

So what is emotional intelligence? According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s emotions, in addition to the ability to understand other’s emotions. To achieve emotional intelligence, we need to fulfill the four basic domains. The first domain is self-awareness, which means being clear and able to determine the emotions that we are feeling at the moment. After defining and acknowledging our emotions, the second step is self-management. This refers to the ability to control our emotions so they do not evolve and disturb our life patterns. Being empathetic towards others and looking at the story from their point of view is the third domain of emotional intelligence. The final domain is social skills, which simply means integrating all of the other three mentioned domains when dealing with others. (Goleman, 2012)

To understand the concept of emotional intelligence further, let us examine a real life scenario of Prince Henry of Wales, the younger son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales. Prince Henry lost his mother unexpectedly at the age of twelve. He was very shocked by this loss, so he decided to shut down all his emotions. He didn’t acknowledge his feelings of sadness for two decades and was traumatized. As stated by Prince Henry, his decision had contributed to a “total chaos” in his life. Failing to resolve his emotions, which he carried for many years, disturbed his personal and professional life. In his late twenties, and only after several attempts of persuasion by his brother, Prince William, he agreed to seek counseling. After attending his sessions, Prince Henry finally opened up to his emotions and was able to grieve over the loss of his mother. Only after Prince Henry became aware of his emotions, he was able to manage them, and live a normal life again. (Olivennes, 2017)

Emotional intelligence is a concept that should be taught to all individuals and especially introduced at a young age. Therefore, this concept should be taught at classes in schools. According to Psychologist Daniel Goleman, if emotional intelligence was taught to students then this will reduce antisocial behavior, which refers to causing distress to others, and it will reduce class disruption by 10%. Percentage of students liking school and pro-social behavior, which is the act of helping others with no expectation of a reward in return, will increase by 10%. Academic achievement scores will increase by 11%. (Goleman, 2010)

So the final question after knowing all these facts, is emotional intelligence an option?


References:

Goleman, D. (2012, April 23). Retrieved April 28, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7m9eNoB3NU

Goleman, D. (2010). Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.

Olivennes, H. (2017, April 17). Prince Harry Says He Sought Counseling Over His Mother’s Death. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/world/europe/uk-prince-harry-death-princess-diana.html?_r=0

The Wondrous World of Bilingual Brains

Mariam Al Hosani (@mariamralhosani)

Mariam Al Hosani (@mariamralhosani)

An inquisitive soul, Mariam has always been fascinated by human beings. With a Bachelor degree in International studies with a specialization in International Affairs, she learned that for there to be order in the world humans need to be reminded of their humanity. In her column “Back to Humanity” Mariam sheds a light on topics she believes we all need to reflect on every once in a while.
Mariam Al Hosani (@mariamralhosani)

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How does knowing more than one language affect our brains? Does it make our minds disoriented or sharper? Let’s find out.

Artwork by Nouf Bandar Elmoisheer (Instagram: @naufba)

On the first day of my German language course, the teacher wrote his name on the board and started introducing himself in German. I sat there not understanding a word he was saying, and as I looked around the class, we all had blank looks on our faces. Our first day consisted of a combination of hand gestures and helping each other understand words that were completely alien to us.

A week into the course, I began to understand a few words; I went from staring hard at the teacher to get an idea of what he was saying to recognizing what he was talking about. It was fascinating how fast my brain learned to process sounds into words.

This revelation got me thinking, how are our brains affected by the knowledge of more than one language? And does our way of thinking and behavior change from one language to another?

In the UAE, many of us are bilingual, and a big portion of the population can easily switch between Arabic and English. There are those who believe that because of this we are losing the ability to be stronger Arabic speakers, and that knowing more than one language weakens our ability in how well we use each language. While this might be true in some cases, there is also the reality that being bilingual enhances the way our brain functions and gives us an advantage over monolingual speakers.

Professor Ellen Bialystok, a distinguished researcher in the field of psychology at the University of Toronto, conducted a study on the effects of bilingualism on the mind. Bialystok’s research shows that bilingual children develop a better ability to concentrate and tune out distractions and that learning a second language at a young age shows signs of stronger cognitive abilities and sharper observational skills.

There have also been experiments conducted to determine if our brain processes languages differently and how that affects our thinking and behavior. An experiment conducted by psycholinguistic scientist Susan Tripp on English-Japanese bilingual women showed that when asked to answer questions or complete sentences the women responded differently in each language. When asked to finish the sentence “When my wishes conflict with my family…” in Japanese the women replied with “it is a time of great unhappiness” but in English their response was “I do what I want”. What these results demonstrated was that when responding in Japanese these women thought like Japanese and responded in a way that was Japanese. Yet their response in English, like the language, was more direct and to the point.

Personally, I have always felt that I have a slightly different personality depending on what language I am using. At my previous job in the UAE, I worked with a variety of people that came from different nationalities. When meeting a representative of an entity that wanted to strictly communicate in Arabic, I would always be very cautious of using the proper titles and addressing the present company in proper Arabic. This caused me to be more reserved and eager to finish the business at hand. Meanwhile, when I had meetings that were conducted in English, I felt more comfortable to start the meeting with small talk and have a somewhat less formal approach while conducting business. Though most of the time this switch would occur unconsciously, my brain would dictate my behavior based on what language I was using.

Now that I am living in Germany and it is a necessity for me to know the language, my brain makes an extra effort to process all the new words and sentences I am learning. I am still in the very early stages of learning the German language, but even my knowledge of simple sentences is expanding my mind because of the extra work it now does to construct sentences in German. When ordering food at a restaurant or making an appointment, I will first think of what I want to say in Arabic or English and then translate it in my head to German and then try to sound as confident as I can be speaking German out loud.

It’s a process and hard work but a journey that I am excited to be on. I truly believe having the ability to understand and switch between different mediums of communication is an advantage that should be encouraged. If you get the opportunity to learn a new language, take it and push your brain to the potential it most definitely has.


References:

Bialystok, E. (1999). Cognitive Complexity and Attentional Control in the Bilingual Mind. Child Development , 70(3)636-644 .

Vince, G. (2016, August 7). Why being Bilingual works wonders on your brain. Retrieved from The Gaurdian: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/07/being-bilingual-good-for-brain-mental-health

Changing the Way We Look at Food during Ramadan

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Column Name: The Words Within
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

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The excessive eating habits of people during Ramadan are looked at with thoughts on how to curb this.

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Ramadan is the time of the year when people’s habits change to adapt to the fasting period, which can be quite difficult especially in the hot summer months of the UAE. And so, it is understandable to want to spend the evenings indulging in whatever food or sweets you can get your hands on, but it is also important to remember to do so in moderation.

As this years’ Ramadan is already upon us, families are gathering night after night to break their fast together and relish in the lavish displays of delicacies presented at the time of Iftar. For many, this indulgence in eating goes well beyond Iftar into the late hours in anticipation of Suhoor, where they must once again start their fast.

Fasting all day and then breaking your fast with fried and oily foods, only to be followed by sugar laden sweets and desserts, can only have adverse effects on your body, and tarnish any cleansing or detoxing that may have taken place during the fast. Many have claimed that Ramadan is when they tend to gain weight and lose control of their diets, and this defies the purpose of this Holy Month as it is supposed to be a time of abstinence and self-discipline. It is important to remember this and to break one’s fast with a light meal controlling the portions that are being consumed. We may be blessed to have all this food available to us, but it does not mean that it all has to be devoured in one night. These blessings can be spread over each day of the month instead or throughout the hours when we are not fasting.

In addition to the self-discipline and control of one’s own appetite, Ramadan is a time for generosity where doors are opened, and meals are shared with neighbors, friends, and families.

It is customary to hear your doorbell ring just before Iftar and to find yourself with a dish that has been prepared for you by a thoughtful family. These are some of the special moments that Muslims cherish during Ramadan as they reach out to one another especially that people are otherwise preoccupied with their own busy lives, and so it is nice to slow down a little and remember the simpler joys in life.

However, it is equally important to remember to share this generosity with the less fortunate and to participate in charities as well. It is not very difficult to take a look around and see where these meals that they are generously sharing would be most needed. While the meals that go around from neighbours to families are truly appreciated, there is a chance that it could go to waste since they already have their own lavish feasts ready as well, and therefore, it may be more beneficial if it went to a home where they may not be able to afford any meal to begin with. Now that would be a true act of generosity.

This Ramadan, let’s remember to eat less, waste less, share more, give where it is needed, and teach our children these values that they can hopefully carry forward as they make their own tradition.

10 Ways You Can Manage Your Summer Course Studies During Ramadan

Hamda Yaser Al Awadhi

Hamda is a nineteen years old Emirati and a third-year international affairs student at Zayed University. Hamda’s interest in writing articles began when she lived and studied in France. The four years in France taught her to respect the diverse opinions surrounding her, yet to always acquire her own personal opinion. Hamda enjoys discovering different topics surrounding culture, history and world issues.
In her column “The Oblivion” she covers topics in world issues, theories and philosophical topics.

Students may choose to enroll in summer courses to move ahead in their studies, here are simple tips that may help you ace your summer course during the holy month of Ramadan.

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (twitter: @DanaAlAttar, instagram: @madewithlove.dxb)

At the end of a spring semester, students may choose to continue taking courses during their summer holidays. The duration of these courses differs from a university to the other, due to their policies. However, this year in the United Arab Emirates a lot of universities have decided that summer courses will be held during the holy month of Ramadan. Usually, students apply for summer courses due to their short duration. Furthermore, some students may prefer to give one or two courses their complete concentration and move ahead in their curriculum. However, as this year summer courses are held during the holy month of Ramadan, students may face difficulties to manage their summer courses, due to several factors; such as fasting during the day, time management, and Ramadan’s spirituality.

Time management is crucial to students attending summer courses, as a course curriculum of a whole semester is being taught during one month. Therefore, students are advised to manage their time during this month by assigning enough time to complete their assignments; while, also ensuring their ability to enjoy Ramadan’s vibes with their families. Muslims usually perform special additional spiritual activities during this holy month; therefore, they are advised to attain their spiritual goals despite the difficulties, using time management.

There are some suggestions that might help you manage your summer courses during Ramadan:

  1. Reduce your intake of any habitual morning drink such as coffee in the prior week of Ramadan. As coffee contains caffeine which can be a migraine trigger, as it is composed of vasoconstrictive that narrows blood vessels and restricts blood flow, (National Headache Foundation, 2009).
  2. Acquire at least 7 hours of sleep during the night.
  3. Avoid staying up until suhoor time, instead, wake up for suhoor, for example, an hour before the morning prayer call.
  4. During suhoor, consume a meal that will keep you energized during the day, as you need to concentrate during the lectures.
  5. Drink enough water after you break your fast and across the night before the morning prayer call, as an individual needs 2.2 liters of water per day to stay hydrated, (Mayo Clinic, 2017).
  6. Have a look at the course material a week before the start of the summer course.
  7. Plan out your daily study hours and the material you will be covering.
  8. If a research paper is assigned, begin writing it from the first week of the summer course, as you will avoid being pressured before the submission date.
  9. Plan out Ramadan’s spiritual rituals you will be performing. For example, reading the Holy Quran.
  10. Lastly, always make time for your family and enjoy Ramadan’s Vibes.

References:

Mayo Clinic. (2017). Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from Healthy Lifestyle: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256

National Headache Foundation . (2009, July 24). Does Caffeine Trigger or Treat Headaches? Retrieved May 22, 2017, from National Headache Foundation : http://www.headaches.org/2009/07/24/does-caffeine-trigger-or-treat-headaches/