We are a generation of doers. Rather than choosing complacency, we see the youth taking control of their destinies, environments and more importantly the future that they see for Kuwait. That’s what Shahad Bishara, founder of Design Diwan, is looking to do. An arts and design fiend, she couldn’t help but notice the shroud of negativity that surrounds the local arts and design scene. Instead of embracing the negative, she’d rather build, and invites us all to do the same by participating in a monthly Design Diwan talk.
Diwan translates from Arabic into council, and that is essentially what Design Diwan is, a diwaniya in the traditional sense and a covenant where art lovers discuss matters pertaining to the local arts scene in a positive and constructive manner. Shahad tells bazaar, “Rather than criticize Kuwait, we are tired of pessimism. We are here to make a difference, taking an aspect of our society that is essentially always criticized, and turning it around into an amazing project.” Coordinated with the assistance of Abdullah Al Harmi from Kuwait’s National Council, the initiative came to life after a long period of wait on Shahad’s end. She’s had her proposal for Design Diwan ready for years, and was waiting for an opportunity to arise.
With a background in graphic design, and a career that merged between fashion, design and marketing, Shahad knew that she belonged in the realms of art and design. Currently working at Kuwait’s beloved art institution, Dar Al Funoon, she organizes the monthly Design Diwan meetings at Kuwait’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). With regular guest speakers such as Amira Behbehani and Abdullah Al Awadhi, Shahad invites pivotal characters in Kuwait’s art society to participate in the discussions. The Modern Art Museum is an ideal choice as Shahad also hopes to revive the destination by attracting a younger generation of visitors to the location. Design Diwan is a forum that is open to everyone, and attendees vary from the creative, architectural and even business industry. Discussions are set up in a circular format to serve a dual purpose; first, to encourage eye contact between the attendees, and secondly to create a cozy setting that is stimulating when the guest speakers are presenting their views to the group. Upon attending a meeting, you will notice that the chosen topics will beckon you to participate. From the highly debatable topic of graffiti, the involvement of artists in society to the importance of utilizing public spaces by engaging viewers via art, Design Diwan is constructing an impactful path toward change.
Positively influenced by art, she also manages an initiative that combines the formats of a website, blog, online gallery and art store entitled Visual Therapy. The online initiative not only supports the local art scene, Shahad goes above and beyond in constantly updating the website with regional and international art news, as well as participating in various expos that encourage the participation of passersby to create public art. She further explains that her aunt was once an extremely active artist, and serves as an inspiration that reminds her that Kuwait always deserves more.
The ambition behind creating Design Diwan goes beyond the notion of a casual art salon. Shahad stresses that it is important to achieve a feasible outcome and to elicit change. “At the end of all the diwaniyas, we hope to bring together a dedicated group of individuals and create an outdoor project that speaks to the public spaces we have here in Kuwait.” All of the chosen topics discussed at Design Diwan revolve around public art, humanizing public spaces, and how we can take back these spaces so that the local population could enjoy them more often. She adds, “We’d love to make these spaces more walkable, more active. People forgot about these places. We wish to bring this back. One positive way in which we could achieve this is through these talks.” The topics are cohesive; chosen with care to result in a uniform direction that would lead the group toward creating and executing an empowering project by the people for the people.