Inspiration is, without a doubt, a matter of perception. We are all touched by it in different ways. One could become inspired by the faultless flow of what began as an awkward conversation, or when brilliant ideas ebb without containment out of a teensy spark. Ultimately it is creativity, in all of its evolving mediums, that elicits an inspired reaction. The annual Nuqat conference that we’ve all come to know and appreciate, initially known as ‘Nuqat Ala Al Huroof’, serves to foster the Gulf and Middle East’s creative culture in an effort to connect, educate and execute. 2013 marked a definitive turn in Nuqat’s efforts, as the conference has now become a fixture in our local and regional community. Here to tell us all about their journey, and their vision for the future are Nuqat’s founding members, Wakim Zeidan, Sara Al Nafisi, Dana Al Hilal and Hussa Al Humaidhi.
The story began with Wakim Zeidan, a renowned creative director with over eighteen years of experience in the advertising field. He recalled what he thought was a ‘dream’ trip to the Cannes Advertising Awards, where he then noticed that all of the communication that made it to the festival from the Middle Eastern region was in either English or French, and not in Arabic. The year was 2007, and even today we barely see our regional creative efforts breach the European continent. He returned to Kuwait, sad and frustrated. He said, “I realized that our regional culture does not foster creativity, and that we have no lectures, short courses or classes to better our skills as creatives.” Rather than complain, Wakim formed what is now considered as the first Nuqat consortium, entitled ‘Nuqat Ala Al Huroof’, which translates to ‘dotting the I’s’ in 2009. With a limited budget, and only two days to spare, Wakim, along with renowned type artist Tarek Atrissi, were the speakers. Still, what Wakim set out to do at the time attracted a small yet excited group of individuals who shared his creative concerns, including designers Hussa Al Humaidhi and Sara Al Nafisi. Upon meeting with Wakim, the trio decided that it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a workshop together to help, and more importantly get to know, Kuwait’s local creative community. Hussa added, “Sara and I worked at an ad agency, yet we had no knowledge of other Kuwaiti graphic designers, let alone finding workshops and seminars to further develop our skills.” While Sara is the creative mastermind behind the Nuqat brand, Hussa is also the design strategist and Sara’s partner of Raw Design Studio, Nuqat’s creative abode where the founding members regularly hold their brainstorming sessions.
Even though the first ‘Nuqat’ had no planned categories and no activities as an extension of the conference, Wakim’s efforts provided the start of something beautiful. The conference proved that talent in Kuwait is abundant, yet this talent has been stagnated. With the very first formation of what we now know as Nuqat, talented individuals would finally begin to appreciate and realize the importance of furthering their knowledge. The importance of being inspired was a notion that a) we may not realize, b) we’re afraid of what inspiration might change and c) we’re too lazy and comfortable to reconsider an alternative. Given that the three founders all shared the same views, the missing link was the successful PR and events guru to make all of their organizational efforts leave a resounding mark. That’s where Dana Al Hilal comes in, earning her title as the Nuqat booster. An artist as well as a PR professional, Dana joined Nuqat as she shared the team’s vision and urged them to dream big. The 2010 edition on Visual Pollution marked the return of an even bigger Nuqat, in which the team integrated several graphic design and architecture disciplines together.
After the success of Nuqat conferences 2009 and 2010, Nuqat 2012 was held under the theme “The Lost City of Arabesque”. Last year’s 2013 conference, themed ‘Executing Culture Shock’ in The Middle East served to challenge and examine the experience of cultural change and its effect on artists and designers, and in doing so, it also assesses the role of creatives in executing this change. A clear pattern in thought and execution formed. Every year, Nuqat gained traction, meriting its position as a creative consortium that is truly one of its kind in Kuwait and the Middle East.
Nuqat’s success may easily be attributed to its restless founders, yet they believe that their efforts and collaborations with other creative entities are strictly tied to people’s reactions. The Nuqat team organically builds upon their annual theme, where a relation is made to target any gaps from the preceding conference. They call this the feedback system. Hussa said, “Based on people’s feedback, we document and look for the most repeated conversations and keywords in an effort to pinpoint an overlapping direction of thought. We look for the gaps that were left out of the conversation and then look at how we can help people think about these points that were missed.”
The real work for everyone involved at Nuqat begins once they’ve decided on the annual theme for the upcoming conference. The Nuqat team then aligns the annual goals with art and creative initiatives throughout the Middle East via various Nuqat ambassadors. They coordinate, create, and support, a creative activity that communicates the year’s theme inside and beyond Kuwait as an extension of the conference. We’ve seen these activities this year and even last year as part of 2013’s ‘Executing Culture Shock’ theme. In this light, we actually see that Nuqat functions as an educator. It’s not just about conducting conferences and workshops; Nuqat addresses the quality of the content that is delivered in every activity that is communicated. Nuqat’s brand ambassadors include Tala Saleh, Raneem Al Farsi, Noof Khonji and Bushra Badri. Along with the wonderful ambassadors, the Nuqat team also thrives on the helping hands of Juliette Zeidan, Sara Al Yaqout and Natalia Desai.
For 2014, a worthy point of mention is that the annual conference has officially become a Kuwaiti fixture, a decision that the founder’s arrived at once they saw how people became completely enamored with what the conference provided in 2013. Sara said, “ The conference carries a personal vibe that is indescribable. The warmth of the volunteers and the team members made it more enjoyable.” Wakim added, “Unlike international conferences, people weren’t there to network and compete. No one was schmoozing, everyone was learning.” Hussa also stated, ‘everyone fell silent and took notes, and the speakers even felt a sense of focus. The creative sparks were simply contagious.” Dana Al Hilal reiterates that fostering this atmosphere is their priority. She said, “Learning need not be limited to people in the creative industry, we want to make Nuqat an accessible platform that is open to everyone wishing to seek inspiration. The conference is not just for designers, nor creatives. Creative thinking need not apply to people in the industry, it actually applies to every facet your life.” They seek to accomplish this by aligning themselves and continuously collaborating with like-minded entities, such as The Ministry of Youth, and other creative platforms like YourAOK. More importantly, Nuqat is strictly not-for-profit, meaning that they always work with a wide network of volunteers and sponsors to make the magical conference happen every year.
As they look to the future, the Nuqat team is looking to integrate the principles of the creative platform in educational curricula that starts with elementary students. They further want to support the local talents in Kuwait by producing their work to create new retail outlets for aspiring artists because they believe that encouraging and developing creativity in any given culture serves as an investment.
Q&A with Nuqat
What do you most value in your friends?
WZ: Honesty and trust.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
WZ: Having enough money to get by, an enjoyable job, happy family, and good health.
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
WZ: I avoid direct confrontations.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
WZ: Hasty judgment, lying and more importantly, laziness.
Which living person do you most admire?
WZ: No one specifically (unfortunately).
What is your greatest extravagance?
WZ: Laying down on a hammock on a beautiful sunny day.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What is it that you most dislike?
WZ: Smart people who use their talent for doing evil.
Which talent would you most like to have?
WZ: Fortune telling.
If you could have any job, what would it be?
SN: I have more than one! I would love to own a sailboat and maybe be the captain if I need to have a job or own a bakery, that’s something more realistic.
HH: Either a teacher or a music producer. If it’s something far fetched from my current profession I want to be a vet.
DH: A painter. I wish I could just create art and make a living out it but for now it’s a hobby.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
WZ: My children.
HH: I feel that I will always be pursing that; I look back and want to do more. So I consider my greatest achievement is to always keep looking for it.
DH: Without a doubt Nuqat. With Nuqat we are creating a community of creatives linking people who wouldn’t have met in other events. Even though I’ve hosted the first TedX talk in Kuwait I feel like Nuqat is so much more than an event, it is a movement.
What is your most treasured possession?
WZ: Peaceful mind.
What is your most marked characteristic?
WZ: To the point.
Where would you most like to live?
WZ: Anywhere on earth.
SN: If I’m going to own a sail boat then I would want to maybe live in Greece, or anywhere around that area.
DH: Amalfi coast in Italy.
What are your favorite words to live by?
WZ: Leadership is the art of silent influence.