Interview With Street Artist Yara Hindawi: A Guide To Recognizing Your Ghosts

Yara Hindawi
Yara Hindawi
Photo of camilla-caraccio
22 February 2016

Over the last decade, Jordan has developed a peculiar underground culture in an effort to articulate a socio-political discourse which years of regional unrest have made more than necessary. This is not the case with female street artist Yara Hindawi, whose dreamlike art and a neutral voice stand out from the crowd. Her playful canvas, scattered here and there across the country, features bizarre cartoon-like creatures with pop colors and futuristic shapes juxtaposed to flowers, clouds and other real-life natural elements. Far from expressing a provocative message, her art evokes inexplicable feelings and recalls remote dimensions, where fear of the unknown acts as a catalyst of imagination and fuels creativity rather than pushing it back. Her work is based in the belief that ghosts are an integral part of the human spirit, and we should learn how to harmoniously live with them in order to master our most secret and deepest fears.

Give us a brief overview of your background and how you became a street artist.

I remember having an intense urge to draw as soon as I was taught how to hold a pencil. I’ve always preferred to doodle over writing, as this helps me express what I can’t with words. I never had the chance to take formal art or drawing classes, but I was able to teach myself different styles through books and inspiration that I found online (especially during my teenage years on DeviantArt). I developed my own style 4 – 5 years ago, combining strange creatures, geometrical patterns, and playing with ink line weights. About a year ago, I was invited by Sya and Steffi Bow to take part in StreetNightDxB to paint alongside other street artists. This was a huge step towards a different direction for me – I had little experience in translating my drawings to a much larger scale. After this event, I was commissioned to do some wall murals as well as partake in a street art event in Cairo called Women on Walls. When I moved to Amman, I connected with some local street artists through a gallery called Fada317 and started painting walls around the Kingdom. Currently, I take pride in painting nearly every weekend with some of the most prominent Middle Eastern street and graffiti artists: Sardine, WizeOne, Deev, SinOne, Odei, Axel, and Aster.

Your pieces foreground the ghosts, demons and spirits that haunt you. Where would you say your ghosts come from? Are they antique reminiscences of the past, or the projection of anxieties and concerns related to an uncertain future?

Ghosts are a childhood fear of the unknown. They are the monsters in your closet, the boogieman under your bed, the creepy shadows outside of your window at night. For me, ghosts are the visual representation of this hyperactive childish imagination, currently living and residing in the reality of an adult. It’s like bringing a little playfulness back into gloomy and melancholic situations.

Wadi Sakra, Amman | Courtesy of Wesam Shadid.

How does the supernatural impact your art?

Those little scary moments keep my imagination running.

Fear retains great power over our lives, driving many of our actions and decisions. Do you think that art can help the viewer identify everyday problems and sufferings?

Art surely helps identify thoughts or concerns. It points them out, underlines them. It’s like finding a word you’ve been lacking for a long time.

How do you fight the ghosts and spirits in your life? Does the artistic expression have a cathartic effect of making its author face inner chaos and eliminate negative emotions?

I don’t fight those spirits and ghosts — I welcome them. The rush of adrenaline coming from their presence in my life is itself a drive and continuous source of creativity.

Jabal Al Weibdeh, Amman | Courtesy of Samantha Robison.

As a child, did you have fear of ghosts? How did you master it?

My “ghost” as a child was eternity, and the fear of it grew intensely during those years. I was able to control that fear, even though it still resides inside me.

What do you think is contemporary society’s worst fear?

It is the fear of losing ephemeral freedom provided by consumerism, the fear of losing something we don’t even have.

What or who inspire you? Do you feel the influence of fiction, fables, cartoons or folklore?

My biggest inspirations today are the artists I interact with and those I follow. Whether they are illustrators, street artists, or graffiti writers, following their work gives me the daily push I need to continue working on myself. Outside of this art scene, I would have to say that cartoons had a major impact on my art. From my childhood, I remember adoring Ren & Stimpy. Later on, I discovered Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, Ed Edd and Eddy, and other great Cartoon Network shows. In my 20s, I fell in love with Adventure Time and Hayao Miyazaki’s legendary work. More influences include video games, namely MMOs and other online competitive sports. That said, I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration through exaggerated animated movements and bright expressive colors.

Downtown, Amman | Courtesy of Joseph Zakarian.

Besides spirits and ghosts, your artwork explore dreamlike symmetrical and geometrical patterns. Can you tell us more about it?

I started exploring mandalas a few years ago as a way to relax. They’re easy on the eyes. However, for me, they are nothing more than an exploration of dimension and repetition.

I heard you are a big fan of drum and bass. Are there any intersections between your favorite music your paintings?

Yes, it’s true! I’m a fan of sound system culture, and the movement in the music and the energetic dancing in this scene is what I crave to see and feel over and over again. I’m yet to find a way to bring that movement into my paintings, and I find myself so desperate to do so. But one day, I hope it will happen.

Last October, you took part in The Word is Yours, the first-ever urban festival that gathered together artists from the MENA region to celebrate the subversive culture of hip-hop, skateboarding, break-dancing and street art. How did it feel being part of such an important event, and did it have any effect on your exposure?

It was a great event to meet new people and expose my work to them, but most interesting was the location of my painting. I had the opportunity to work in a neighborhood full of children who would come out and help me paint. They were fun to be around, and it was nice to see what they thought of this art which would be a part of their community.

You have lived in both Amman and Dubai. Which city do you think has best encouraged your artistic development so far? Do you feel more comfortable in the well-established artistic landscape of Dubai or in the flourishing alternative scene of Amman?

Dubai is where I grew up and spent most of my years. Having such familiarity with the city has somewhat stunted my growth as an artist: I became lazy and didn’t explore outside of my own community, or perhaps didn’t have the chance to. When I made Amman my new home, I was forced to explore and grow. It was actually when I was invited to participate to Baladk’s Reclaim Your Streets event that I was encouraged to embrace my ghost characters by Tunisian graffiti artist MeenOne. He inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and draw more often from my imagination and without too much planning.

Your pieces differ from the artistic narratives dominating the region. Is that a conscious decision? Have you ever considered otackling major themes of social justice, gender equality, education or other ‘hot topics’?

While I don’t have any criticisms towards artists that do, it is not my intention to bring such messages through my art. I would prefer to keep my art neutral and open to interpretation for anyone who will see. I’m quite vocal in my own community about certain societal topics, and I’m not afraid to share my opinion. But my art will stay away from those opinions.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"