Zeina Aref’s Identity Parade

“The process of nurturing and building a story is an extremely stimulating one.”

Zeina Aref’s Identity Parade

Creative Zeina Aref (Instagram) draws inspiration from her hometown, Cairo, as she explores identity and celebrates womanhood through the mediums of film and photography. 

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently in different phases of production for a music video and some commercial work, which has really been helping in my understanding of the craft of making. I’m also developing a personal experimental short film which has been challenging, but is something that I’m aiming to shoot in the coming year. On top of that, I’m aiming to shoot another self-portrait series, which is something that’s becoming almost like a ritual that helps me in documenting my process and my journey. 

What is your favourite medium to use in your work?

I think every story is best told with different mediums. Experimenting with film, photography, sound, installation and performance are things that I want to continuously explore in my practice. Currently, I’m really enjoying film and the moving image. It’s so multi-faceted, collaborative and allows you to explore and experiment with different senses, narratives, and formats for storytelling. The process of nurturing and building a story is an extremely stimulating one. 

Zeina Aref

Outdoors or in a studio, what’s your favourite creative space?

I definitely prefer shooting outdoors, or on location. A lot of my inspiration comes from spaces and their natural connections, patterns and visuals. I also think that nature is so rich as a base, and I tend to root aspects of my work in reality. I don’t really enjoy studio work, as it’s not as dynamic or inspirational to me. 

What does being a woman from the MENA region mean to you today?

Being a woman from Egypt is one facet of my identity and it means that the stories I enjoy telling are informed by that culture and by my personal experiences. It is something that I identify with and the experience I connect to most.

What is your favourite memory of Egypt? 

One of my favourite memories would have to be very old family trips to Alexandria. We’d have these very redundant loops of activities related to the beach and walks by the waterfront which are really nostalgic.

Zeina Aref

Topics surrounding women seem to be a major influence on your work, why is that?

It’s just something that is innate to me, and they are the stories I feel are most important to discuss and to resolve within myself. My work is a reflection and reaction to my present self and the social and political spaces I inhabit. And so, naturally, these themes and conflicts surface in my most personal work. 

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?

It sounds super cheesy to say this, but trusting the process, and yourself. I think this is something that I’ve often struggled with and – to a certain extent – self-doubt is healthy. But I’ve really learned to understand the true meaning of trust, and how important it is in order to experiment, to push yourself and to develop your work. 

This interview with Zeina Aref appeared in YUNG ISSUE 2 PRINT.

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