Moayad Lingga: The ‘archi-visualist’

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Updated 07 October 2015
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Moayad Lingga: The ‘archi-visualist’

Born and raised in Jeddah, 25-year-old Moayad Lingga grew up in an artistic home. In 2007, teenage Lingga moved to Portland, Oregon where he graduated from high school and still resides. Last year he graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and currently is interning at an advertising agency. Aside from his dedication and passion for what he does, what makes Lingga stand out is his appreciation and incorporation of art as a tool to tell a story. For this artist, he has chosen architecture, carpentry, Islamic art and graphic design to tell his story.
A self-taught carpenter, he finds gratification in working with wood as his main material, add metal welding to the project and he considers it also a learning experience. As a carpenter, he has enjoyed opportunities “to work first hand on a number of design-build community projects,” for the past five years. In addition, he has had the luxury of building his own furniture for his studio. Lingga sets himself apart from others by being completely hands-on from start to finish of a project. In contrast to other artists who might send their concepts to fabrication shops to be made, he explains, “I tend to create, and fabricate my own art.” This is evident from his documented work which is available to view on his website www.moalingga.com.

In an interview with Arab News, architect Moayad Lingga lays out what architecture means to him, how he creates art to tell his story, and the reception his work receives.

First, what inspires you?
Most of my work inspiration comes from everyday scenes of modern daily life, though I tend to highlight controversial ideas that initiate conversation. These arguments are usually both positive and negative and the vibe that they create end up fueling me to produce the next controversial work.

You began sketching floor plans at the age of nine. What about architecture that captured your attention and not to mention dedication?
Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” Architecture is a form of art that I have always wanted to master because historically architecture represented nations, cultures, and religions. Nothing is more powerful than designing a structure, which tells a story about itself without the need of human narration.
When I was little I used to redecorate my bedroom at least once every couple of months by moving the bed and my desk around. I found it very refreshing and entertaining to have the freedom to basically live whatever lifestyle I was into. Sometimes I had my bed next to a sunny window, or moved it away so the sun would not bother me.
I grew up wanting to design and build for others. A while ago, my ultimate dream was to have the challenge of an empty room with a description of a style and a limited budget to design, build, and decorate. That dream came true in 2013 when I was commissioned by a close friend in the States to completely redesign his small restaurant with a budget of only $500 and a time frame of two weeks. I was able to create what I would call satisfying results with that limited budget. From that point, my next ultimate dream got bigger, and it is now to design and build a whole office space or company.

You explain that your work is a reflection of the story of who you are and where you come from. Why did you choose carpentry to deliver this message?
Carpentry is a skill set and a powerful tool if one can take advantage of it. Most, if not the majority, of my art projects were done by hand from recycled or trashed wood that was found thrown away in recycling bins or on the street.
When living in a place like Portland, Oregon (the greenest city in the States) wood is one of the primary materials used everywhere. This results in a lot of discarded left over or trashed wood despite being in good condition. I spent the last few years getting to know the different types of wood while working with a lot of different types to master the skill and to be able to come up with my own techniques to build anything. I find wood as a material beautifully appealing and it carries a weight (literally) of the idea of the project.

Also, what drew you to Islamic art specifically?
Personally, I believed that the best way to represent who I am and where I came from is through expressing my endless addiction to Islamic patterns as seen while growing up in Roshan of Al-Mashrabya in the old houses of the Al-Balad area in Jeddah.
I was able to incorporate a similar geometric style used in a recent project called “The Other Mehrab,” which allowed Westerners to be immersed in the shadow of Islamic patterns when standing inside of the Mehrab.

Which do you feel expresses your message the most, your Islamic woodwork or your graphics?
A mixture of both; even though I dislike to be titled one thing over the other, but every project starts with a sketch on paper, then graphically designed on the computer in 2D to 3D. Finally, I make the actual project out of whatever material best represents the idea.
This leads me to talk about titles. Whether I do carpentry, sculptures, graphic design, film, or architecture I prefer to be called just an artist. Metaphorically, I think all small acts in our daily lives from eating to talking are considered art. Humans were created to always strive to master at least one or two and try to be good at the rest. Therefore, I think of everyone as a born artist, and I think kids should be reminded/motivated to be artists in their lives.

The shows and exhibitions you have participated in have been mostly in America. How has your Eastern and Islamic influenced artwork been received by Western audiences?
First of all, I find myself lucky to have exhibited in American exhibitions, but it is unfortunate that I was never able to exhibit my work in Saudi even after endless tries.
Westerners have always been very curious about the Eastern world. So whenever foreign artwork is exhibited they tend to want to learn about the personal, cultural, political, and often the religious aspects of the work. They show excitement and acceptance, which I find very comforting to any artist because it allows the artist to work without limits or boundaries to the their ideas no matter how difficult it is to be accepted sometimes.

Please tell us about Tarajom.
Tarajom is the art of recollecting important values from the past and presenting them in a modern way. It started as a series of art pieces, each one talked about a part of my history but in a metaphorical sense shaped in an old saying, “idiom.” These designs were first created on the computer, than laser cut on wood. After receiving a large amount of feedback, I decided to print these designs on shirts. My plan was to use the shirts as canvases for my art to be displayed everywhere all the time instead of a singular wooden piece in a singular gallery. So far, I have over 15 different designs and counting. The end goal is to establish Tarajom as an international brand where my art can be sold and be a larger umbrella for young artist collaboration.

What do you feel you have to offer to the thriving Saudi art community?
It is definite that the Saudi art community is in continuous growth, as I can see from social media. I have not worked nor presented my work in Saudi so my expectations are almost unexpected. But to be completely fair, whenever I post a picture of a wooden piece on Instagram, I receive many private messages from people asking what my major is and if this is part of the practice for that major. This indicates to me a percentage of people who are willing to get rough and dirty working in a shop for the sake of making something meaningful and dear to them.

Who have been your biggest supporters?
My biggest supporter is my father, Dr. Marwan Lingga. My father was a big part of my inspiration to work with my hands. Even though my family is always supporting me physically, economically, and emotionally, my father gives me the hardest time due to his continuous constructive criticism. We may have our differences and ways of seeing the world today, but he tends to criticize my work for the sake of pushing me to do better and to rework the idea to make it stronger. Aside from family, my close friends, loved ones, and people who follow my journey are strong supporters.

Email: [email protected]


She’s weaving home: Helping refugees keep the tradition of tatreez alive

81 Designs' recreations of Hassan Hajjaj's works_tatreez on canvas (1)_preview
Updated 22 November 2018
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She’s weaving home: Helping refugees keep the tradition of tatreez alive

  • Moroccan pop artist, photographer and designer Hassan Hajjaj headed to the Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon to meet with the working women of 81 Designs
  • The women were recreating 14 pieces from Hajjaj’s “Graffix from the Souk” collection using a traditional cross-stitch technique called tatreez

DUBAI: In January this year the London-based Moroccan pop artist, photographer and designer Hassan Hajjaj headed to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon. He was there to meet a group of women working with the UAE-based social enterprise 81 Designs.

“It was quite intense,” says Hajjaj, recalling his visit to Lebanon’s largest Palestinian camp. “It reminded me of places in Tangier where I used to live. My parents lived in a shantytown with no electricity and no water, so I kind of understood that. There was a similarity. And the women kind of reminded me of my auntie — the way they dress, the cultural side of things, you know? It really took me back to something familiar.

“But at the same time it was shocking, in the sense that I’ve only seen refugee camps on TV. It was a real eye-opener. Not only the place, the women too. There was a nice human connection between everybody.”

The women were recreating 14 pieces from Hajjaj’s “Graffix from the Souk” collection using a traditional cross-stitch technique called tatreez. The collection, spearheaded by 81 Designs and the mother-and-daughter team behind it — Nesrine El-Tibi Maalouf and Nadine Maalouf — was shown for the first time at Art Dubai in March.

Now 81 Designs has collaborated with the Beirut-based surface fabrication studio Bokja as part of Abu Dhabi Art, with five female totems created for an installation called “Standing Tall.” Each totem, which can be dismantled into six-to-eight poufs, is being sold for $8,000. A further 100 fragments that can be worn as scarfs are being sold for $500 apiece. The money will go towards paying and empowering as many skilled female artisan refugees as possible.

“It’s been so insane in the run-up to this week, but it’s been such a great ride,” says Nadine, the co-founder of 81 Designs, which was created to preserve the art of tatreez and “to bring art and humanity together.”

“Tatreez is a folk art that’s been around for centuries, but the way it’s always been captured has been quite commercial, in the sense that it’s always been traditional garments, pillowcases or small objects. It hasn’t been given a wider platform.

“So (we thought) why not give it that platform and be able to modernize it? Let these ladies showcase their creativity. To be able to modernize it through design is something that I’m passionate about.”

The Bokja collection is 81 Designs’ third artist collaboration after Hajjaj and the French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed, who kick started the 81 Designs initiative at Art Dubai in 2017. During Dubai Design Week earlier this month, the social enterprise also hosted interactive tatreez workshops as part of a collaboration with Facebook. The founders had been working on 81 Designs for two years prior to its official launch.

“It was very challenging in the beginning,” admits Maalouf. “First of all, we needed the right ladies to work with, and when approached different NGOs in Lebanon they thought the idea was just ridiculous. They said our idea was too abstract and they couldn’t really visualize it the way I was seeing things. But we got lucky when someone from one of the NGOs reached out to us and connected us to the women. So, we were fortunate in that aspect.

“They’ve had a lot of hardships in the camp that they live in,” says Maalouf. “Sometimes it’s quite volatile and it’s difficult for them to leave — it’s almost like they’re quarantined there. And obviously they buy their material from outside. So those are the challenges.

“But we’re taking it one step at a time. We just hope to work with people who share the same vision as us. That’s the most important aspect to partnering up with anybody: (finding) somebody who wants to give back and who has the same passion about working with the women that we do.”