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Muhannad Shono

* 1979, from Saudi Arabia, Comic Illustrator

The young art scene meets in the Five Green Gallery, a coffee bar which also sells modern clothes. People usually have various roots here: Western and Arab. They have either been to University in the USA or in Europe and have returned to Dubai. It was there we discovered Muhannad’s fantasy pictures and decided we wanted to meet him. He is reckoned to be the only known Saudi comic illustrator. He suggested meeting in the "Lemontree". This café could easily have been in Hamburg, London or New York - just that in Dubai the weather is somewhat better of course!

My name is Muhannad Shono. I am Saudi. I currently reside in the Middle East, in Dubai. I have been here for seven month. I studied architecture in Saudi. My mother and my father both live in Saudi Arabia, in Riadh. I don’t want to be labelled and I dont want to belong to only one thing. I hate being nationalistic and I think its easily currupted and used by governments and it can lead to many things. And the word being Arabic: You can be Arabic if like, if you speak Arabic.

I mean, I want to spark a flame and do something interesting. I want to tell stories that relate to the Arab World. And the Middle East and we don’t have to take stories from the West and translate them. Because nothing is created by us right now. Everything is recycled and copied. All these stories for kids they are all from the US or from Japan. They are not stories, not our stories. We have many stories that can inspire us. We are living thru a dark age right now.

The characters name is Kamin and he has no face and no identity and he remembers nothing. He has nothing that distinguishes his identity. He has no hair colour, no skin colour. His lips and his nose are there but they are not distiguishable to be from a certain race. He speaks all languages which is part of his curse. His character represents quite a few people I have met, myself included, who are a kind of lost between different civilisations and cultures. Who respect the West and who are quite influenced by the West but yet live in the Middle East and try to survive in this region.

There is a story. Kamin is sitting on a hill with his companion Nara, the firy Djinn and she is combing her hair. Her hair is made of fire. The story was like this: The two were coming thru a village and an old lady came to them and asked them:

"Can you please take this box to my sister who lives across the hill?” and Kamin says: "Yes”, because he wants to help her. And she says "but please don’t open the box, only if you see water feeding a flame”. So he takes the box and they continue their journey. Nara is angry. She says: "Why do we carry this box? Its heavy and we don’t know this lady and we are walking on our feed.” He told her "because I want to help this lady, because I know, I will be old as well”. In this moment they are beeing attacked and Kamin thinks that they are after the box. These mysterious riders. And he tries to protect the box. But they steal Nara, his friend. So he faces his first decision. These creatures have just kidnapped his friend and he is on foot and he has the box. Will he carry the box when he tries to follow the riders? He decides to take the box and carries it with him. They reach a field of grass and the riders ride right into the grass. He is about to jump in when this old lady comes to him to ask for help and she is carrying a child. So he faces his second decision and he decides to stay and to help the lady. He offers her food. And she starts to feed her her son and then she introduces herself: "My name is Arwa”. That means water in Arabic. And the name of the son means fire in Arabic. So he realises thet he just saw water feeding a flame and he opens the box and finds a horse. He rides the horse and safes his friend. So because he helped twice he was rewarded.

Growing up, my goal was to reach the United States and study and live there. I think this is a very strong indication of the strength of this culture and how far it has reached. I never got this chance but the funny thing is, now I don’t have the feeling that I missed something. If every single person who wants to do something creative abandon the Middle East then….its really up to people like us to really invoke change in the Middle East and saw the seeds of change in the Middle East.

Muhannad Shono
* 1979, from Saudi Arabia, Comic Illustrator


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