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

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.

Arab stand-up comedians star in new Netflix series

Updated 17 December 2018

Arab stand-up comedians star in new Netflix series

  • Comedians of the World will be the first of its kind to feature Arab comedians
  • Four comedians from the Middle East made the cut

DUBAI: Netflix has announced a new show that features stand-up comedians from the Arab world.

“Comedians of the World” – expected to debut on Jan. 1 – will be the first of its kind to feature Arab comedians, according to Netflix.

The series brought together 47 comedians from 13 regions around the world and was filmed in eight languages. Four comedians from the Middle East made the cut — Moayad Al-Nefaie and Ibraheem Al-Khairallah from Saudi Arabia, Adi Khalefa from Palestine and Rawsan Hallak from Jordan. Each of the talents will have a 30-minute stand-up special dedicated to them.

Adi Khalefa

“After 12 years of doing stand-up comedy, this was like a big reward for me and I hope this is just the first step,” Khalefa told Arab News.

From Nazareth — commonly known as “the Arab capital of Israel” — Khalefa has performed in multiple comedy festivals around the world and his latest show, “Billiat-Show” — inspired by his personal, social and political experiences — sold out more than eight times.

For Al-Khairallah, being part of a platform that showcases internationally acclaimed comedians such as US funnyman Dave Chappelle is an honor.

“I love Dave Chappelle so much, so when I go on Netflix and see a show I am featured in right next to a show of Dave Chapelle, I feel blessed,” he said.

Before stand-up comedy, Al-Khairallah worked in banking in Saudi Arabia and only took his act to the stage as a hobby.

Ibraheem Al-Khairallah

Meanwhile, Hallak said that she feels proud to represent Arab and hijab-wearing women in comedy.

“It’s not easy to be an Arab female comedian, but it sends a strong message, because generally speaking, we don’t have the confidence to put ourselves out there and share our thoughts and opinions, but so far the response from my audiences has been good,” she said.

Hallak explained that viewers should expect her material to be based on lighthearted subjects that affect women.

“I like to focus on stories and issues that involve women, such as the latest fashion trends,” she said.

Rawsan Hallak

Meanwhile, Khalefa said he likes to talk about his feelings and anything that he finds funny — but if viewers expect comedy with a moral message, it just isn’t his style.

“Mr. Bean, who is a comedic genius, makes comedy about nothing and he is extremely respected. So, it is not necessary to have a message in your stand-up. But I like to vary my style too, so whatever I find funny, really,” he said.

For the stand-up stars, the Netflix show has given them an opportunity to take their brand of comedy to a global audience.

“Netflix has so many viewers worldwide, taking us from a local level to an international one,” Hallak said.