Tavān Studio in Conversation is an ongoing project started by Yosra in 2019 where she interviews female artists and makers in the MENASA region and the diaspora about their creative living. The podcast is now in its second season. Ta. vān (Persian) توان :  Potentiality/ Energy/ Strength 

Season II

Dana Barqawi is a Palestinian Jordanian multidisciplinary artist and urban planner who studied architecture, International Cooperation, Urban Development and Emergency Architecture. In this episode Dana talks about her past experience working in humanitarian sectors and how she decided to become a full time artist. We dive in deep about her upbringing outside of her native land and how she utilizes her art as a tool to communicate these social political issues that explore indigenous identities and challenge colonial narratives.Having grown up surrounded by female artisans, Dana's work is rich in texture and detail and makes an ode to her Palestinian heritage, keeping these voices and identities strong and alive. #FreePalestine

Working out of her home studio between India and Spain, Rithika Merchant produces the most fantastical paintings which incorporate creatures and botanical elements inspired by myths and epics across geography. Rithika talks about making lifestyle choices to support her career and dream, the importance of putting your work out into the world, not knowing who might see it and approach you (you will know more about this in our chat), not being afraid of rejection, and of course her art process.

Lena Kassicieh is a Palestinian-American multi disciplinary artist and maker. She talks about growing up in a family of doctors and medical professionals, beauty school dreams, and letting her innate curiosity and attraction to whimsical and ironic everyday life observations pour into her creative process . We follow Lena’s journey from New Mexico to Amman and then to Dubai and learn about her experiences in the art world which empowered her to realize, accept, and validate herself as an artist.It was such a pleasure to speak with Lena about her art process, thought process, and creative living.

Tamara Barrage is a Lebanese Artist and Designer recently based in Dubai. She earned a masters degree in product design in Lebanon then later got her second masters degree specializing in contextual design from the Netherlands. Her work explores tactile and sensorial characteristics of various materials. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Tamara about her obsession with texture and her crazy studio experiences. We talked a lot about corn and chainsaws and had a good laugh. You will understand once you get deep into the conversation. Her work is intriguing, makes you curious, and maybe even repulsed ( her words not mine!) and creates a dialogue and connection that she enjoys experiencing and observing from others.

Afshan Daneshvar is a visual artist who's work is deeply rooted and inspired by her Persian culture and upbringing. Afshan talks about her journey on becoming an artist, how she fell in love with paper, and how a vintage notebook from her grandfather spoke to her like a language of secrets and inspired the repetitious theme and process in her work. In this heartfelt conversation we talk about the relationship of the artist and their studio, geographical moves, and the unexpected challenges caused by the pandemic.

With childhood anecdotes and stories about how art brought her closer to her children, Emirati Artist Maitha Hamdan, immerses us in her creative and artistic life. Maitha talks about being a multi disciplinary artist and business woman, how she came back to art after leaving it during a rough patch in her life, and offers some insight on mom guilt and self care.

In this episode, Franco Egyptian artist Hoda Tawakol talks about the inspiration behind her distinguishable voluminous fabric sculptures, her collaborative work with the Persian trio Hesam Rahmanian and Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh in the midst of a pandemic, and the final push that got her to listen to her truth and transition into a career as a fulltime artist. Hoda talks about the importance of the materials she uses, her creative process, and how a small project initiated by her friend Abed Alkadiri pulled her out of a major low during the early days of the pandemic.

In this episode I get to talk to the amazing and inspiring Manal Al Dowayan. Manal takes us on a journey from her early days of black and white photography to her most recent trampoline installations in the ancient city of Al Ula. She shares with us about the times when she would secretly take art classes and how art residencies played an important role in her career. Manal talks about visualizing the life she wanted and how she finds inspiration and strength by surrounding and immersing herself in a female community both in her professional and personal life.

Kicking off season 2 with multi media artist Alia Ali. Alia dives deep into her practice, expanding on how her work is driven by her multicultural Yemeni-Bosnian roots within a geopolitical context. We learn about her love and deep connection with textile, the reason behind her “faceless” images, and the power of repeated texts. Alia gives us a look into her day to day studio practice and the things she draws inspiration from which contribute to her creative living.

Season I

Wrapping up season 1 of Tavan Studio in Conversation with an in-depth chat about frescos, surfaces, decay, and time with artist and muralist Chafa Ghaddar. Chafa walks us through her journey of observing the natural and also distressed landscapes of Lebanon and the transition to the heat and crystal blue pool surfaces of Dubai and how that has impacted her fresco thought process and work. Chafa also opens up about her experience as a new mother and gives us a very honest and raw depiction of her time spent during the lockdown.

In this episode I get to sit down and have a late night chat with visual artist Afra Al Dhaheri. Afra's work is rooted in her experiences growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE – a place of recent and rapid change. We really get to go deep into her practice and the visual language of her work, her relationship with materials, and the questions she ponders while creating . We also talk about the importance of choosing the right gallery to be represented by, how productivity and creativity have been challenged during the lock down, and much more. Afra is also an Assistant Professor in Visual Arts at Zayed University , Abu Dhabi, and the cofounder of Bait15.

Nahla Al Tabbaa is an independent educator, artist, consultant and urban researcher with various institutions including Art Jameel, Frying Pan Adventures, previously the Sharjah Art Foundation, and the co-founder of Daftar Asfar, an artist sketchbook platform. In this episode we delve deep into Nahla's socially engaged art practice, her love of food and storytelling, her approach to the reactivity of art especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and how all her various interests and skills enhance and complement one another to create her wholehearted creative lifestyle.

One of my 2019 highlights was having the opportunity to interview a favorite artist of mine, Soheila Sokhanvari! Her intricate and masterful work is thought provoking and enchanting, wistfully transporting you into a world of patterns and nostalgia. In this episode Soheila talks to us about her collection of family photos, magic realism, how textile and patterns are political, her creative process, and much more. I would also like to thank Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery for allowing me to crash their private party and Aziz Bindeid-Barnes for fixing me a hot cup of hibiscus tea on that chilly London evening.

In this episode, artist Sara Naim talks about her love of photography, experimenting with different materials, what "home" means to her, and how borders (on all levels) are ultimately just illusions. We discuss her at home studio practice and how being represented by a gallery has impacted her lifestyle and much more. Tune in to learn about Sara's creative process and her thought provoking work.

Happy 2020 and welcome to a new episode of Tavan Studio in Conversation with Iranian artist Arghavan Khosravi. It was a pleasure visiting Arghavan at her NYC studio on the last day of 2019 surrounded by her art work in preparation for her solo exhibition at Stems Gallery in Brussels. In this episode Arghavan talks about her journey as an artist, how she continues to create more and more work when facing doubt, and being conscious of not being an opportunist but rather create honest work as a reaction to things that are happening around her.

As we wrap up 2019, I got the opportunity to chat with the amazing Lebanese-American artist, stylist, and thrifter, Feda Eid. Feda talks about her journey growing up in the states, her visit to Beirut after many years, and how a car accident changed her life. Learn more about her photography, styling, community and museum projects, and overall creative living in this episode.

In this episode, Syrian illustrator Rama Duwaji talks about figuring out her art career and passion post college. We take a virtual trip to Beirut and learn about her residency at Haven for Artists, then make our way to Damascus as she talks about her return post the civil war. In her work, Rama explores topics regarding beauty standards, mental health, and self care and expands on how a platform like social media can be a double edged sword.

Noush Anand, also known by her stage name "Noush like Sploosh", is a Dubai based multidisciplinary artist. In this episode we discuss her creative process and how it was important for her to be honest with herself and honor her body and soul while building a "home" in what she wanted to do -sing! She talks about how she learned to let go of judgment , and how some of her lyrics are a result of her crying while she was in the corporate world doing admin work. We also get a glimpse into her creative working space and see how she utilizes her home in her daily practice.

In this episode's sit down with Dubai based Iraqi artist, Ruba Al-Araji, we discuss how Ruba's love for comic books came from her parents, her amazing residency in Japan #visitjapan, and the reality of having a day job and how it can affect your own perception about being an artist.

In this very first episode of Tavan Studio in Conversation, we speak with Dubai based Pakistani Artist, Sophiya Khwaja. Sophiya is a prolific printmaker and an active member of the Dubai art scene. In this episode, Sophiya talks about how she manages being an artist and an entrepreneur, how studying art helped her in business, and how 4 hour long walks are important and totally OK.