DUBAI: Umm Kulthum has accompanied me all my life, from my childhood until now. She was with us in my house during our happiness and our sadness. Can you imagine that it’s 2021 and we’re still talking about her? We listen to her songs as if she’s still here, but she’s been gone for many years. She left a mark during her life and, as a woman, achieved so much success.
She was really authentic. She sang from the heart. In all her songs, you feel this pain. People listen to her when they are down but also, when we’re in a happy gathering, they put on Umm Kulthum’s music. When I moved to London four years ago, I was surprised that some restaurants, owned by Arabs, played her songs. You’re walking in London and all of a sudden you hear Umm Kulthum’s voice, which is a great thing.
This piece happened by coincidence. In 2017, one of the owners of Jaffa’s Al-Saraya Theatre reached out to me on Whatsapp, telling me he would like to display my work in an exhibition. His profile picture was this great image of Umm Kulthum from one of her concerts. She’s looking up the sky. Around the same time, a good friend took me to a nice Ottoman-style coffee shop that had an Arabic touch. It really inspired me with its Arabesque patterns, which you will see in the background of my artwork. Umm Kulthum’s song “Ana Fi Intizarak” was also playing in the coffee shop. It’s one of her best songs and my late aunt’s favorite.
Sometimes life gives us signs. I could imagine that all these incidents were connected, and happened so I could make my portrait.
My work is digital but I use a graphic pen to draw. I’m very attached to the black-and-white vintage style, which reflects the time of Umm Kulthum and contrasts beautifully with her red lips and the writing. Umm Kulthum’s strength came from her throat, so I wanted to put the lyrics on her neck to express the power of her voice and the genuine emotion she released. She is looking up and waiting for (her lover).