commissioned work

shahad nazer: this month's featured artist

comissioned by follow the halo

comissioned by follow the halo

In this month's issue of follow the halo, we explore the theme "reclaiming empowerment". What does empowerment mean? And what does it mean for the Middle East? The word "empowered" has become a kind of buzzword, and gets thrown around a lot lately, from brands and governments alike. These buzzwords can become problematic especially when they assume that there is some state of "empowerment" and one "has" and another "hasn't". This issue, we decided to reclaim empowerment, and ask women from the region - specifically those in the arts and culture - what empowerment means to them. We also commissioned a work by Saudi-Egyptian artist and writer Shahad Nazer, titled "Deal with it", as the cover of our issue. 

In her own words, Shahad explains the piece and what empowerment means to her: 

"The piece I made titled "Deal with it" is a collage artwork using photoshop. I chose this title to represent Middle Eastern women and how powerful they are and that men and society should deal with it - in a humorous way yet but it's a strong message. Being born in Saudi Arabia has its ups and downs. Women were limited to what they could and couldn't do and I found my freedom in art and writing. They were my form of escape. Mostly I try to translate my thoughts and feelings into my art, especially with anything that has to do with women rights and women empowerment. I just want to show people that women are strong, brave, and shouldn't be underestimated. 

I think my work is mostly inspired by the issues and limits here, not just in my country but on planet earth, and I think I have a huge imagination and I like to test my creativity and how far I can go with it. I think anyone can use photoshop, anyone can do collage art, but can anyone be creative with it? Nope. That's what makes me different in my opinion. And also I've translated a lot of my dreams into artworks, including my novel that I'm currently working on that talks about Astral Projection, something I personally experienced." 

Shahad is 22 years of age and currently lives in Saudi Arabia. She is a huge bookworm, lover of animals, plants, mythical creatures and of course food. 

To follow Shahad's work on instagram @shahad.nazer 

Tarane Parniani: this month's featured artist

commissioned for follow the halo

commissioned for follow the halo

This artwork is by Iranian illustrator Tarane Parniani titled "Under The Moonlight". Tarane created a 100% digital painting using photoshop for the newsletter. Tarane is inspired by moonlight, since its often associated with feminine energy. 

Tarane considers herself a feminist artist. In her own words she says: "I consider myself a feminist artist not because I draw women but because of the message I am trying to send. Even if it's not the main focus of the piece, I try to keep a wide range of body types and people of color in my works. The positive feedback I get from women, that seeing small "flaws" like stretch marks or a tummy in my art has made them more accepting of themselves. It means a lot to me you know?" 

Tarane says that she wants women to "find themselves" in her work because she often doesn't find representations of women like herself (curvy, Iranian). As for culture, she notes:  "I used to be super obsessed with Western culture as a lot of people my age were back then. But then, growing up, studying art, and especially with this wave of reclaiming one's own culture which is quite huge in Iran, I've begun to reclaim it myself." 

When I asked her to elaborate on how culture influencers her work, she added: 

"Fact is, my culture is not something I can separate myself from, its part of me. My background and lifestyle growing up in Tehran and in the current age - with the contrasts and paradoxes it has - for myself and for the women around me, with all the struggles it might have on a daily basis, its all part of me and honestly I love it Tehran. It's my home. And Iran is home to a lot of diversity in culture and background, there are a lot of different types of people I see every day." 

Tarane says she is inspired by other cultures too, particularly Japanese art. She says she would love to visit Japan more frequently and get a more in-depth view of Japanese culture. 

Tarane is currently based in Tehran. You can follow her work on Instagram at @t.arane