Emara: The superhero who dons a headscarf

The caped crusader.
Updated 06 September 2018
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Emara: The superhero who dons a headscarf

  • Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza
  • Fatma Almheiri would like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood

DUBAI: Picture your average female superhero, and she is probably dressed in spandex with long bouncy hair and an illogically tiny waist. 

But Emara dons a navy blue headscarf, a green, white and gold costume, a cape lined with red, and golden specs inspired by the burqa. 

Born and raised in Dubai, Fatma Almheiri was just 21 when she created the mini-series on YouTube in 2016. She now aims to put Arab female superheroes on the map.

“I’ve been doodling since I can remember. I grew up watching my mum draw and paint, as well as my cousins, so it’s always been part of my life. But I didn’t decide to take drawing more seriously until high school,” recalled the Emirati.

It was then that she transformed her hobby into a career and enrolled at the Cartoon Network Animation Academy in Abu Dhabi. 

From there, she interned at the UAE’s Cartoon Network Studios Arabia before working fulltime on her personal project, the five-episode cartoon “Emara: Emirates Hero,” which boasts more than 75,000 subscribers.

“Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza, who harnesses a special power to fight crime in the bustling streets of the UAE,” said Almheiri.

Why create her own show with a strong female lead? “Representation,” she said. “I tried to create the kind of character I wanted growing up but never got.”

In comics and other areas of pop culture, said Almheiri, representation matters because fictional characters are a mirror to society. 

Like Latifa, Saudi Arabia’s first female comic superhero, and Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, Almheiri said she wants Emara to give a sense of identity to children who, like her, could not relate to traditional superheroes. 

The reaction to her YouTube series has been “overwhelming,” Almheiri added. “I didn’t expect so much support, especially not internationally.”

She said: “The female main character is in a hijab. You don’t really see that often in cartoons… It’s the characters that make the show great.”

While Emara is currently discontinued unless it gets commissioned — “animation isn’t cheap and it takes a lot of time” — its creator has her sights set on the big screen.

“I’d like to create my own animated feature film one day,” said Almheiri. “I’d like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood.” 


Screen Scene: What to watch at home this week

What to watch on Netflix this week. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Screen Scene: What to watch at home this week

DUBAI: If you plan on staying in this week, here is what to watch.

Medal of Honor
Starring: Joe Martorano, Jake Abel, Tyler Williams
Where: Netflix
An original docuseries that includes liveaction footage. “Medal of Honor” tells the story of eight recipients (three of whom are still alive) of the US military’s highest award for valor — ranging from veterans of World War II and Korea, through Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Westside
Starring: Pia Toscano, Taz Zavala, James Byous, Leo Gallo
Where: Netflix
Reality show following nine struggling musicians in Los Angeles (“struggling” being relative... one of them placed ninth in “American Idol” and a few others have had songs released...). Think “The Real World” crossed with “... Got Talent.” If you can bear to do that.

Outlaw King
Starring: Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, Billy Howie
Where: Netflix
Netflix bills this movie as the “true story of Robert the Bruce,” the Scottish hero who resisted the occupation of Scotland by the English. We don’t know if that means ‘true’ in the sense of ‘historically accurate’ or more in the not-so-true “Braveheart” sense.

Narcos: Mexico
Starring: Diego Luna, Michael Pena, Teresa Ruiz, Alyssa Diaz
Where: Netflix
This spin-off from the wildly popular and acclaimed crime drama series sees the action shift from Colombia to the illegal drug trade in Mexico, charting the rise of the Guadalajara cartel, which DEA agent Kiki Camarena attempts to prevent.

Warrior
Starring: Dar Salim, Danica Curcic, Lars Ranthe
Where: Netflix
Danish-language crime drama that tells the story of war veteran CC as he teams up with his best friend’s widow, police officer Louise, to infiltrate a dangerous biker gang.