Close this search box.

Kinzy Diab and Christina Shoucair Talk Hayaty Diaries and Women Empowerment


With fervent adamance to deliver to the world the untold stories of emerging Arab female creatives, Egyptian Kinzy Diab and Lebanese Christina Shoucair created the innovative space Hayaty Diaries to showcase and celebrate the voices of female creatives through collaborative projects. As Arab women themselves, who are now based in London, the two founders are inspired by the current powerful age of women’s voices rising to the forefront and felt impassioned to bring attention to the lack of representation of Arab creatives in all contexts by offering a platform that discusses important themes experienced by females in the Middle East, North Africa, and diaspora.

Diab and Shoucair share their gritty process and backgrounds involved in creating Hayaty Diaries from the impact of their educational background to the process of reaching out to female creatives for collaboration, give us an enlightening sneak peek into some of the different buried experiences that Arab women experience both in the Middle East and in diaspora, and explain their thoughts on the relationship between culture and art. Additionally, we find out what the different art forms that Hayaty Diaries encompasses are, where to view the artwork, and what the founders hope to evoke in people through the artwork.

What do you believe Arab women bring to the art scene? 

 Christina: Art, in all forms, is about personal expression and storytelling. What artists create are inevitably reflections of who they are, how they see the world around them, where they come from, what influences and shapes them, and what they think and feel. What Arab women bring to the table is that unique and diverse perspective that, throughout history, has often been overlooked. Now more than ever, women are being appreciated across the art scene for their ability to transform their thoughts and experiences into their personal creations, and that’s powerful in itself. The beautiful and exciting thing about Arab women is that we all don’t look the same or have the same experiences as each other – the term ‘Arab’ unifies us but is still very broad. We believe that Arab female artists can broaden the scope of stories communicated through art by offering new themes, ideas, and concepts in the contemporary art scene. This is the time for Arab female artists to not only share their stories with the world, but the generational stories of those who may have not had the same opportunities as them.  

Where can people view the art created by the talented women you’re collaborating with? 

 Christina: People can see the work produced in collaboration with Hayaty Diaries on our social media and website, which will be released soon. We understand that social media is a great place to connect with people worldwide, so we wanted to ensure that we used it to showcase the content produced by our artists and to tell their stories. Our website is our primary platform and will give people a more in-depth look at our artists through personalised article features and interviews which we will write and publish. Every artist we collaborate with will have their distinct diary page, which is a great way for our audience to get unique insights into the creative minds behind these spectacular works, which we will exhibit at our debut exhibition in October 2023. 

Tell us a bit about Hayaty Diaries and the theme that the projects aim to follow. 

Kinzy: Hayaty Diaries promotes and works with emerging female artists from the MENA region and the diaspora on diverse collaborative projects. The First Volume of Hayaty Diaries will be based on the theme ‘Viewer Perspective’. The theme addresses the question of who determines the true meaning of art: the artist or the viewer? Is art so inherently charged with meaning that it makes the viewer’s perception redundant? Or is art so unprovocative that meaning is only generated through its interaction with the viewer’s gaze? Or, perhaps the answer is not so black and white, but instead, meaning exists within individual subjective gazes as our understanding of art is built more upon previously acquired ideas than direct experiences. ‘Viewer Perspective’ as a theme is particularly important for Arab women as the way in which their work is interpreted within their cultural contexts may determine their success or failure. Selected artists are encouraged to interpret this theme as they see fit and use their medium of artistic expression to draft a response.

What inspired the development and launch of Hayaty Diaries

Kinzy: After graduating from university in June of 2022, I found myself, as most new graduates do, unsure of my next move. I began navigating the world as a newly and officially ‘unemployed’ woman, and I realised that the only certainty I had was my genuine desire to work with more Arab women – women like me. This revelation prompted me to contact an Egyptian fashion photographer living in Paris, Olivia Ghalioungui, and set up an editorial-style shoot. The theme of the shoot focused on Ghalioungui’s earliest memories of what inspired her to become a photographer, which she revealed was the bustling streets of Cairo. We then decided to shoot in various locations in Paris, where she felt most reconnected to her Egyptian roots. Interestingly, as she was reconnecting to her roots, I found myself immersed in the nostalgic setting, being transported back to my wonderful childhood in Cairo. During production days, we roamed around Paris, ate at Koshary du Bon Coeur, a hub for quintessential Egyptian dishes like Koshary and Mahalabiya, shopped at Epicerie égyptienne “Le Caire” for local Egyptian products, food, and sweets, and found a little bit of home in Paris. Once I returned to London, I described my inspiring and sentimental experience to Christina, and she immediately wanted to jump on board. The concept of Hayaty Diaries has transformed and grown from its original form; yet at its crux, it is still based on a simple desire to work with more creative Arab women.

What are some issues that Arab women experience in diaspora that you feel need to be discussed more? 

Christina: More than anything, probably the idea that Arab women are generally homogeneous– that they all fall within the same category. The reality is that this could not be further from the truth. Arab women often get looped into a stereotypical box, loaded with preconceptions and ideas that feel very restrictive, especially when they leave their own countries. We know we’ve felt that way on several occasions living in the UK and the US. It’s the classic story of “othering”. Through our collaborations with such a wonderfully diverse group of talented female creatives from across the MENA region, we hope people will become more aware of the versatility of thought and expression that characterise each artist and their craft. Yes, all of the artists we have had the privilege of collaborating with are Arab women, but look at how unique their works are, how personalized their messages are, and how distinct their styles and their techniques are. Through the power of art, I hope we can encapsulate this diversity, opening the world up to a more representative picture of the modern Arab woman.

How would you say art and culture impact one another? 

Kinzy: The relationship between art and culture is both dynamic and symbiotic. Art takes inspiration from culture, and culture is shaped by art in many ways. Art promotes communication between cultures and preserves cultural history; it is a catalyst for social and cultural change. Art and culture combined generate an unstable force that engenders empathy, open conversation, reflection, new ideas and relationships.

What kind of art forms does Hayaty Diaries exhibit or encompass? 

Kinzy: We have an ‘Artist Spotlight’ series on our Instagram where we exhibit all kinds of artists exploring all types of mediums, such as painters, photographers, experimental filmmakers, mixed media photographers, visual and performance artists, sculptors, installation artists, and more. The various art forms showcased on our Instagram address diverse subject matters, including feelings of placelessness/home and themes of selfhood, cultural memories, trauma, heritage, and preservation. As we grow, we would like for the diversity of artists showcased on our Instagram to be reflected in our Volume I selection of artists collaborating with Hayaty Diaries. But, for our first release, we will be working with emerging and super talented painters and photographers to develop a body of work responding to our Volume I theme of ‘Viewer Perspective’. These artists will be released in the build-up to our debut exhibition in October 2023. 

When people view the artwork you’re exhibiting, what do you want them to experience and think about?  

Christina: I think our goal is for them to question – to stop and think to themselves: What are they looking at, what do they see, and in return, how does it make them feel? Do they accept the subject of the work or challenge it? We intentionally selected these artists to collaborate with for this year’s Hayaty Diaries because we wanted a diverse group of women and a range of work across all mediums and styles so that there is something for everyone to connect to. We also chose ‘Viewer Perspective’ as the foundation of our exhibition for that same reason – not only because we felt it would be an interesting starting point for our artists to explore because of their Arab female identities but also because it is a concept everyone can resonate with. As a collective society, we all know how it feels to be subject to watching or judging eyes in one way or another, whether those eyes are our families, peers, friends, belief systems, cultures or social expectations, or even ourselves. So, to answer your question, what do we want them to experience and think about? That’s the thing – We want them to think, to feel, and discover new possibilities of the complexities of being an Arab woman, but also the complexities of what it means to be themselves, to be human.

How has it been reaching out to Arab female artists? 

Kinzy: I have truly enjoyed connecting with Arab female artists from all over the MENA region. Everyone we have contacted has been so supportive of our vision and helped ease our integration into the Art community. It has been such a pleasure to work with, and take inspiration from, so many individuals who have been generating change and helping to reposition Arab women in and out of their homeland. Christina and I are so grateful to have received such warm responses from all the artists we have contacted, and we are looking forward to meeting so many more. 

How did your experience in the UK change the way you see and understand art? 

Christina: It has definitely broadened my understanding of art, simply because of the exposure that inevitably comes with living in such a creative cultural hub. The art scene in London has always been a center for new ideas, art forms, styles, and techniques, and there is almost always something to see for the first time. What’s great about London is that there is an appreciation for all types of art across a breadth of cultures, art movements, and periods of history. I was recently thinking about an exhibition that I went to at the Tate Modern when I was 16. Mona Hatoum was exhibiting there, and I remember how much joy and excitement it brought me to see a Palestinian Lebanese-born female artist being represented on that kind of scale. There is something so spectacular and moving about seeing work produced by someone who comes from the same background as you – you feel seen and understood, even if you don’t directly relate to the subject of the work. That’s the real beauty of the art scene that London provides – exposure to all forms of art, from all over the world, shaping how you see art and all the various ways it can be expressed. This city really does make you appreciate creativity and, in many ways, inspires you to revisit your own culture and learn more about the art that comes from there.