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Yousif AlShafei: Poetic Justice
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 07 - 2013

Mariam Nihal
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Yousif AlShafei is a young, flourishing Bahraini artist with an old soul influenced by Arabic that is deeply rooted in history and poetry by the likes of Fairooz, Nizar Qabani and Um Kolthoum.
Creator and believer of useable art, Yousif's trademark is embedded in strong and bold strokes of calligraphy on colorful pieces of furniture.
He recently displayed his work at Loudart in Al Khobar.
In an exclusive interview with Saudi Gazette, he said: “At first I started by observing, helping my father carve words from the Qur'an on pottery and gypsum boards. This idea of design and creativity made it a hobby.”
He went on to study architectural engineering. “To add some theory to my practice. I was never good with the technicalities of the major itself but the design, drawings and paintings instead. Soon I started sketching words by Fairooz and Um Kolthoum on a notebook. Then started doing it on bigger pieces like tables and installations.”
AlShafei's art is greatly influenced by his roots, depicting various facets of Arabian ideology.
He said it was easier for him to approach the Saudi Arabian market and Saudi art and culture scene than in Bahrain. “The art scene in Saudi is young and vibrant, with a lot of interest from people. I found Bahrain more difficult to approach as an artist, where support in Saudi Arabia was phenomenal.”
Many artists in the Middle East use social media to create awareness about their art.
Luckily, AlShafei was discovered through an image-sharing application Instagram.
“People who discovered me for the art show actually discovered me through Instagram. I started by sketching in a notebook, filtering it on Instagram and posting it there.
“The cofounder of NTI and the second-generation owner of Desert Designs approached me to display my work on a larger scale at the show. It has been an amazing experience since, people placing private orders and more people approaching me for customizations all through social media.”
AlShafei practices Islamic art, Arabic calligraphy, and free hand sketches of Arabic legendary celebrities.
“I started showcasing my art in Loudart in Al Khobar this year. It was my first exhibition, and from that I've been getting more opportunities to showcase my work elsewhere.
My biggest achievement is seeing the interest in my art, and having my pieces sought after at the exhibition to be honest.”
He is currently working on private orders and store orders.
“Working on a couple of stores who asked for more pieces to be displayed at their locations for sale. Working on new ideas and doing a few changes on the old ones as well.”
AlShafei's inspiration comes from his hero and father Abdulla AlShafei. “He is an amazing man, calligrapher and artist. I am also inspired by words of Nizar Qabani, Mahmoud Darwish, Fayrouz's music, and Um Kolthoum.”
Talking about his future, AlShafei said: “My future plans are to start participating in more art exhibitions and events to showcase my installations and art pieces. I look forward to when I have my own solo exhibition In Sha Allah showcasing all that I have.”

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