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Rashid Shabib of Brownbook: Deconstructing the Middle East

Here at HYPEBEAST we recently had an opportunity to catch up with publisher Rashid Shabib of Brownbook for a one-on-one. As an urban guide to the Middle East and North Africa, Dubai-based Brownbook has set out to repair the stereotypes presented by the mainstream media and project a true representation and perspective of the region. Touching on subjects ranging from artistry and creativity to religion, education and economics, Shabib shares his insights into the current state of the region and where future growth may lead.

Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Rashid Bin Shabib and I publish a urban lifestyle and cultural magazine in the Middle East.

What’s the premise behind Brownbook?
I think there is a clear misconception about the Middle East and North Africa. But being part of the 300 million youth living in this region, we feel we are being misrepresented through what the media is projecting. Brownbook really shows a different perspective and a true picture of what the region is becoming.

How important is it for the Middle East to maintain its own creative voice?
So important, it is easy for us to get lost in the globalized machine, but authenticity and the indigenous identity is key and it is how we translate this through our projects.

How established is the regional publishing landscape?
There are a few good people out there doing good things – the more of us publishing magazines, online or journals, the better – so it’s not there yet, but it’s clear people are getting into this field.

Has it been easy or difficult to find the proper creatives to highlight as well as execute your creative visions?
I think its all about experience. There are so many talented kids in Marrakech, Cairo and Tehran doing experimental stuff in photography, graphic design and videography, but how do you harness that into a product is difficult.

Is the generally more conservative outlook on the region a hindrance to creativity at times?
Conservatism is such a misconception, obviously we operate in a cultural-sensitive region and we need to understand what needs to get published and how things get published – so, as long as you are not publishing things that causes offense – you can do what you want.

We’ve seen an increasing number of big artists take to the Middle East to hold exhibitions. How receptive are art-goers to these names or does the region still require a greater education?
I think seeing people like Murakami doing the EGO exhibition in Qatar are exactly what this world needs. Engagement through art is so important for cultural exchange globally and in this case between Japan and Qatar, Asia and the Middle East. But there are super artists that are not known in this part of the world and through these programs the world becomes closer.

Amidst a booming economy, parts of the Middle East have seen a slowdown in expansion and infrastructure development. Will this slight difficulty on a business side affect the arts and creative side?
Like everyone, we all dream big and then when we end up doing things, the reality kicks in and then slowly we find the center point between dreams and reality. I think that is what is kind of going on here in the region. But you can be creative anywhere, if you have the will – nothing can stop creative talent.

Where do you see the creative community of the region developing in coming years alongside some other emerging juggernauts of say China and India?
I have no idea, we live in insane times, things move quick. All I know is we have to move with it.

What is it like for artists and creatives to acquire funding?
Tricky, I think artists need to understand that they can’t make art and sell art. Those are two different things. That is why the world needs galleries, store fronts and fairs – to sell work. So as long as find that balance, you can succeed as an artist.

What’s the relationship between creativity and religion?
Faith is so important to us here in the Middle East. The region is the center for the three biggest religions in the world – so I believe that influences our creativity.

What are some misconceptions about the Middle East on a creative level?
I think people forget the heritage of creativity and design in Middle East. Food (humus, kebabs & soups), architecture (pyramids), fashion (Giza cotton) and art (arabic typography) – the question is how are we, the next generation, are going to do it better.

Any last words?
Anything else? Nothing but my love for HYPEBEAST – you guys are the bomb (Bomb = Cool) so there is no misunderstanding.

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