Muse: Mariam Hamidaddin talks safe spaces, creative courage and cats

Mariam Hamidaddin is founder of “alternative art space” Humming Tree is also a freelance graphic designer and a keen adventurer. (Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Muse: Mariam Hamidaddin talks safe spaces, creative courage and cats

The Jeddah-based founder of “alternative art space” Humming Tree is also a freelance graphic designer and a keen adventurer. This year, she became the first Saudi to join a Euro-Arabian North Pole expedition, spending 10 days on the shifting ice of the Arctic Ocean and skiing over 100km to the pole. Here, she talks safe spaces, creative courage and cats.

In 2011 in Cairo, I attended my first open-mic event. That’s where I discovered the power of safe spaces — the sense of belonging through shared values and community, and the beauty of authentic creative expression as a means to connect with one another and evolve together. 

I witness so much courage every day. I’m proud of creating a space that people say feels warm and makes them feel like they can be their true selves. Being able to provide resources for people and their ideas to grow is an honor. I love seeing people transform before my eyes and I feel like I’m constantly growing with every person I meet.

The biggest challenge, for me, was finding that sweet spot between having a sustainable business and serving the community.

We’ve got cats in the Humming Tree compound we feed regularly. One of them particularly feels like it’s her home and tries to sneak in the main door whenever possible. One day, in the middle of an event, she casually walked in and went upstairs. The crowd’s reactions were a combination of laughter, screams, and wanting to hold and pet her. Quite entertaining.

I don't spend too much time thinking about what people think of me. I believe people will always have something to say, but it's important to focus on the people who truly believe in us and connect with our message, and to listen to different opinions when said and meant constructively. 

Life hardly ever goes as planned. But living in regret is something I'm strongly against. We can obsess over the issue and narrow our lives to that moment, or we can embrace reality and see what wisdom can be learned and grow because of that.

Seeing more women in managerial positions has put a spotlight on the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace, which — especially in my line of work — is an important skill to have; being able to balance being firm and structured yet encouraging and empathetic.


The Six: Celebrate the Man Booker announcement with these regional reads

Books from the Middle East to read. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 October 2018
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The Six: Celebrate the Man Booker announcement with these regional reads

DUBAI: With the 2018 Man Booker prize being announced on Tuesday, we take a look at six books from the Middle East that deserve to be read before the year is over.

‘Where the Bird Disappeared’
Taking inspiration from the stories of Prophet Zakariyya and his son Yahya, Palestinian poet and writer Ghassan Zaqtan’s book is a beautiful novel set in the village of Zakariyya, in modern-day Palestine.

‘Ascension to Death’
Syrian novelist Mamdouh Azzam tells the story of a young girl’s fate in a southern Syrian village.

‘Tippu Tip’
Stuart Laing writes a biography that transports the reader into an extraordinary world with an exotic cast of characters.

‘Elsewhere, Home’
Written by Leila Aboulela, the book is an enchanting collection of short stories that stretch from Khartoum to Scotland.

‘The Merchant of Syria’
Diana Darke interweaves the story of a cloth merchant with the development of Syria in an insightful look at the life of a businessman who expands his trade.

‘The Baghdad Clock’
Shahad Al-Rawi’s extraordinary novel turns life in embattled Iraq into a fantastical world of characters and memories by following two young girls who meet during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.