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The Queer Arabs Posts

Episode 205 [in English]: Hayati

( See a walkthrough of Noor’s exhibit here! Hayati – My Life/My Love )

Noor Aldayeh is a visual artist from Los Angeles, California. She is an Honors Film and Media student at Emory University minoring in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies, and acts as a student photographer for the Office of Belonging Community and Justice at the university. Our conversation centered around Noor’s thesis project ​​”Hayati (حياتي) – My Life / My Love,” an archive of queer, Middle Eastern and North African women and gender non-conforming-individuals across the US photographed alongside their personal safe spaces. 

Noor discusses what drew them to this subject matter, observing exploitative tropes of orientalist photography and, conversely, finding role models in other SWANA woman artists. She explains how she approaches photography in a way that maximizes the subject’s autonomy and consent. Noor also mentions how this project has been a conduit for finding community in multiple cities–something they weren’t able to access easily in their upbringing and college career–and how they plan to continue the work after graduation.

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Episode 204: Alma of Slave to Sirens!

Alma Doumani is the bassist for Slave to Sirens, an all-women thrash metal band from Lebanon that gained international attention through the documentary Sirens, which depicts the lives of the band members over three years. Outside of music, Alma is also a photographer and video producer. 

In the episode, Alma talks us through her love for the complexity of metal music, how she got connected to the band, and how the documentary process started with a Facebook message from Rita Baghdadi. She also describes what it was like to have such pivotal moments in her and her bandmates’ lives thoroughly documented, and what that was like to revisit them in the film. We collectively discuss how carefully crafted the film feels, and how it has been challenging depictions of Arab women in international media. Alma also explains her personal decision to relocate to the US and how the band continues to work long-distance. 

Stay tuned for Slave to Sirens’ new EP coming out this summer!

Alma on IG: @alma_doumani
Slave to Sirens on IG: @slavetosirensband

Also!  You can also find the band’s music on Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, YouTube, Anghami, Soundcloud…
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Episode 203 [in English]: Rayan Afif

Rayan Afif is a multi-media artist and theater maker of Egyptian and Lebanese descent making work that envisions queer SWANA futures. Rayan discussed some of their visual art which depicts dream physical spacesincluding a mana’eesh cafe and queer SWANA drag raceand the importance of online community spaces when physical ones are not available. They also described their journey into playwriting and some of their theater projects, including a play exploring the effects of the Beirut explosion on two sisters, a historical fiction piece about a queer Egyptian in the 1950s (researched by interviewing their grandmother and great-grandmother), and an interactive piece about trans community care. 

Rayan is also a high school senior, so we talked about the particular challenges of high school activism and avoiding early burnout by focusing on joy. We also talked about how teachers and school staff can be most supportive to queer and trans students while also setting healthy boundaries around emotional labor.

This conversation gave us hope for the next generation (thanks Rayan), and we’re excited to see queer SWANA teens and young adults stepping into their creative powers!

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