Ahmad Al-Ghanim: Pop culture reinterpreted

Ahmad Al-Ghanim: Pop culture reinterpreted
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Ahmad Al-Ghanim: Pop culture reinterpreted
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Updated 29 July 2016

Ahmad Al-Ghanim: Pop culture reinterpreted

Ahmad Al-Ghanim: Pop culture reinterpreted

Blend creativity with an “East meets West” perspective, as well as pride in tradition and culture, and you come across the unique world of Kuwaiti artist Ahmad Al-Ghanim. Born and raised in what he calls “my beautiful” Kuwait, he explains that, “since childhood I always expressed myself in any creative matter whether through art or design.” He graduated in the United States from San Francisco State University. While there, he double majored in industrial design and mass communication with a minor in history. Currently, Al-Ghanim finds himself in a creative and successful amalgamation of these different fields in the form of the Kuwaiti brand and concept shop, Thouq, of which he is co-founder with his business partner Bader Al-Hujailan.
Originating as a magazine in 2004, Thouq (Arabic for “taste”) later partnered with Al-Ghanim to evolve into a design studio and finally into the concept shop it is now. Utilizing his expertise and interest in design, communication, and history, he is creating and promoting his art in the historically meaningful Souq Almubarakiya (SoMu) in Kuwait. Al-Ghanim and his business partners in Thouq have brought modernity, youth, and a buzz to the old Souq, which has long been an epicenter of Kuwaiti trade and heritage. Along with the significant location selection, the shop is a hot spot to purchase local and regional brands, but most importantly Thouq’s sportswear brand CASH, which is trendy with a sense of homegrown flair. Thouq is a one-stop for all your pop culture needs with unique and stylish products, from art, to books, accessories, clothing, or even footwear.
Al-Ghanim adds artistically to Thouq with his unique art that works with elements of calligraphy, fashion, popular culture, and his signature style, which imparts a touch of Khaleeji culture or the idea of introducing modernity to the classic. Imagine a Khaleeji version of Tom Hanks, Charlie Chaplin playing the oud, or Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn drinking tea in a tent in the desert, Abdulhalim Hafez and Marilyn Monroe wearing snapbacks, or Superman and Batman drinking Arabic coffee. Can’t visualize it? Don’t worry; Ahmad Al-Ghanim has already done it for you, and to a great number of western and eastern celebrities and personalities. The wide range of celebrities who have been “transformed” by Al-Ghanim vary from old Hollywood stars such as Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, James Dean, Elvis Presley, and Grace Kelly, to sports stars such as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and David Beckham, contemporary stars like Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Adele, Jude Law, Selena Gomez, Ben Affleck, Madonna, and Lana Del Ray, and even animated characters like Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop. Arab News recently caught up with the artist to discuss his art and to get a glimpse into the world he and his business partners have created in Thouq.

What do you hope people take away from your art, whether a mural, digital art, or a painting?
Honestly, I am just super honored that people fancy any of my art pieces.

You often times infuse humor into some of your work, is humor important to you?
Of course it is, human nature always seeks happiness so why not provide this through art?

How did you come up with the idea to “dress up” Western celebrities in traditional Khaleeji garb such as the abaya or ghutra?
I love fashion, and I always asked myself, in the sense of an east meets west theory, “What if they dressed in our traditional clothing? What would they look like?” So, that was the basis for my artwork series.

Your range of celebrities has been from old Hollywood stars, to sports legends, contemporary icons, as well as popular animated characters. How do you choose your subjects, and do you receive requests for specific celebrities?
All the stars are great and I am fond of their careers, but it also mainly depends on what I have recently come across on TV. And yes, I often receive custom orders by request for certain celebrities.

Which celebrity is your best seller?
All indeed, since they are limited edition …They sell out quite fast, so honestly no specific one, all are best sellers.

What is the ultimate goal of Thouq?
Our goal is to grow and be a global brand.

How much is patriotism and cultural pride a part of Thouq’s ethos?
Patriotism and cultural pride will always be part of Thouq. My partners Bader Al-Hujailan, Sheikh Hamad Al-Sabah, Saad Al-Humadi and I are always proud of our heritage.

What does the interest in your art and the success of Thouq say to you about Kuwaiti society, also Khaleeji society as a whole?
Well, it tells me that art collectors in the region are definitely increasing. I realized this especially after I introduced the affordable art series, which thankfully became a huge success. We want every one to be happy and that is the ultimate success. We were the first to introduce a whole new era and meaning for a men’s concept store in the region. Although that keeps us as front-runners, let me tell you, it is a lot of pressure because we tend to introduce new items on a weekly basis and that’s the challenge.

Please tell us about Thouq’s brand CASH. Who is the typical CASH shopper?
CASHxThouq is for the up-to-date, trendy gentleman who seeks the current look at a very affordable range.

Will CASH ever expand to sportswear designed exclusively for women?
Well, I hope so insha’Allah, because we are noticing a great demand.

Are there any Thouq or CASH updates you can share with our readers?
Our online store will be coming soon Insha’Allah!

For a look to the past, a bit of wit and humor, or a creative interpretation of a celebrity “Kuwaiti makeover,” be sure to follow Ahmad Al-Ghanim on his Instagram account (@ahmadalghanimkuwait). To purchase his work or for more information on CASH and the rising hotspot Thouq located in SoMu, Kuwait, follow @Thouq on Instagram.