Profound conversations about humanity, life and identity are not a fixture in my day-to-day life. I often contemplate these topics in isolation but when I scheduled an interview with Nada Faris, 32, all of that was about to change.
Having been acquainted with Nada for many years, we were casually catching up at Let’s Coffee. I learned about her distaste for iced coffee, she pointed out that it would be like having “hot ice cream”. I was both amused and repelled by the idea, but I couldn’t entirely disagree with her reasoning.
As we sat together, Nada started asking me a series of questions. I was taken aback by this, I was the interviewer! This was unprecedented, but I was engaged. Nada’s questions were stimulating, thought-provoking and, most importantly, original. As I reflect on our conversation, I find myself wondering whether her version of our meeting would be far more interesting to read than mine. Nonetheless, I will endeavor to make this an enjoyable read for one of Kuwait’s leading writers and performance poets, along with the remainder of our loyal readers.
“I do poetry, articles and fiction. I speak to older audiences and younger audiences. Part of my brand is mischief, fun, humor but also at the same time I bring the heavy information. That’s what I do on a surface level. On a much deeper level, my idea has always been that through literature we can actually bring peace in the world. Peace on a political, global and a personal level.” Nada’s conviction was genuine, and as much as I agreed with her in principle, I had to dig deeper and understand why and how she thinks this is possible. “Because it is my belief, one thing that separates humans from animals is our ability to rationalize the world in words which is why language is a very big part of my brand. I talk about Kuwaitis as being “Anglowaitis”.” But what does that mean?
“An Anglowaiti is a subject that has been born or raised in Kuwait after the 1960s in these modern circumstances but because of our static and exclusive idea of how we think about identity, these people are not seen as part of the nation. Every one of us is being dehumanized but in different scopes. If we live together in one nation, technically that’s our identity.”
Nada’s ultimate goal is to “create new spaces, where a modern identity can come to place that is not Westernized. It’s modern and local, nothing about my brand is imported from the West.”
What were the origins of these thoughts? “Up until I was 17 years old, I discovered there was a crisis in our identities as Kuwaitis. What does it mean to be Kuwaiti? When you hear adults talk about what it means to be Kuwaiti, it’s completely different from your reality. I didn’t have the terms to rationalize what was going on, I just knew that I was uncomfortable. At 17, I transferred from the College of Engineering to the College of Arts.” Nada was searching for an answer, through literature and language.
“I don’t think we’re Westernized or Traditional, maybe we identify as Anglowaitis. It took me around 10 years to learn about identity, history and language. In 2013, I premiered the concept for the first time at Gulf University for Science and Technology. What we see being produced right now is Anglowaiti literature. A lot of media channels call it Kuwaitis writing in English, it’s Anglowaitis writing in the language they think and identify and express themselves.”
Throughout our conversation, Nada was advocating passionately for a definition of identity and how it is created.
“If we’re being honest with ourselves, identity shouldn’t come from trauma or the past, identity is something we live and breathe. Identity shouldn’t be something that prevents us from being our best version of ourselves. It should be a label that the majority agree on that helps us navigate through our daily life.”
Nada’s extensive body of work is predominantly in English, despite being from an Arab-speaking country. Did this have something to do with her unique perception of identity in Kuwait? Nada believes that English has a unique history in Kuwait, a subject which she has discussed extensively during a speech that she gave at the Contemporary Art Platform.
“How can I now include all those people I see as Anglowaitis into the conversation about what it means to be Kuwaiti? English is a very important, useful tool for us. For me, I saw it as the first tool to create the foundation where most representatives of a Kuwaiti experience can stand. My mission has been to create a foundation where we can all see each other, both physically and virtually.” In fact, Nada is very meticulous on how she presents herself and her brand. “I never brand myself in terms of genre, age range or interests. I do very heavy stuff and very silly stuff. If I didn’t speak English, would I be the same person I am today? The level of language is very important, there’s more interest in putting things in the English language. That doesn’t mean I’m only focused on English. I started working on translating to Arabic.” Nada hopes to learn a few more languages within the next 2-3 years.
My sit-down with Nada was reminiscent of the film “My Dinner with Andre”. I shared this sentiment with her later that evening. So much of what we discussed can be debated. In fact, it may have not made much sense to the people around us, but I left Let’s Coffee feeling grateful. Grateful for the gift of language, grateful for the ability to communicate, grateful for conversing with someone so articulate and finally, grateful for learning something new about my identity.
To learn more about Nada’s upcoming events and work, please visit www.nadafaris.com
To follow Nada on social media, please visit @nadafaris on Instagram
Nourah Al-Oseimi is a 25-year-old Kuwaiti who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing writer to the Times Kuwait – Newsmagazine. Her column – Essentially Kuwaiti – will feature an in-depth look on exceptional young Kuwaitis and their efforts towards the realization of a New Kuwait.