Middle Eastern Creatives You Should Follow

Instagram can often feel like a dark pit of for us who feel the need to check it every ten minutes, where brands and influencers drown their ‘followers’ with insecurities by showcasing and marketing unsustainable products such as appetite-suppressant lollipops, slimming tea, and hair supplements . From sponsorships to images of unattainable beauty standards, the average user is bombarded with advertisements and sponsored posts telling them that their self-worth comes from the purchase of a “new shiny thing!” As most of us are exposed with the same degrading images – it’s easy to fall out of love with Instagram. 

Rather than having thoughts or feeling the need to deactivate for the 9846th time, instead, you can (or should!) unfollow the “influencer” that you love to hate and instead fill up your feed with something new and positive! From illustrators to photographers, there are a number of Middle Eastern and North African creatives using Instagram to showcase and develop their work, without publishing any sponsored post. These globally connected yet locally rooted creatives are creating a new type of Arab aesthetic; one celebrating culture over content.

Here are six that you should follow or learn more about:

Mouad Abillat

Photographer and director Mouad Abillat travels around his home country to document the lived experiences of everyday Moroccans. Providing an intimate look into youth culture, Abillat creates original storytelling to his work. Using a 35mm lens, he delivers warm pastel-hued photographs that celebrate diversity and humanize a neglected generation.

Mous Lamrabat

Born in Morocco and raised in Belgium, Mous Lamrabat uses his dual identity to define the modern Arab. Mixing traditionally Middle Eastern aesthetics into western imagery, his work celebrates his cultural heritage while commenting on the effects of globalization.

Ismail Zaidy

Minimalist photographer Ismail Zaidy uses modesty as his main source of inspiration. The majority of his subjects remain anonymous, (covered in either cloth or paint), providing a blank canvas for his abstract work. 

Beeta Baghoolizadeh 

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I am in love with this professional family portrait that I was asked to draw – it's from the 1950s, when studio portraits were very much in vogue and "Charlie Chaplin" mustaches were still a thing. Like so many others from the provincial cities, this family had recently moved to Tehran from Kerman, in hopes of better work opportunities 🏢 🚗 Today, most members of the family live in Tehran or Kerman, and a few live in diaspora. But almost all have kept this particular photo in some form or another – either in their private albums or copied and kept between pages of a journal or saved in their phone's memory card and shared on telegram with some relatives. Not just anyone is allowed to see the original photo, as the mother (now a grandmother and great-grandmother to many, though no longer with them in this world) has her hair uncovered. The photographer was undoubtedly a man, but in almost any other context this woman would have covered her hair in public spaces. ♥️📸 عاشق این عکس خانواده‌ای قدیمی‌ام. عکس اصلی در دهه‌ی سی گرفته شده، که در آن زمان عکسهای حرفه‌ای خیلی رونق داشت و سبیل‌های چارلی چاپلین هنوز مد بود. در این زمان، خیلی‌ها واسه‌ی کار از شهرستانشون به تهران می‌رون و این خانواده به‌ همین دلیل به تهران می‌رون. این عکس از همون سالهای اول زندگیشون در تهران است. امروز، فامیل‌هایشون همجا پیدا می‌شن‌- تهران، کرمان، و خارج. با اینکه از هم‌ دور شدن، همشون این عکس رو دارن – یا فتوکپیش رو دارن و یا اسکنشو دارن، یا‌ تو تلفنشون سیو شده و یا تو تلگرام واسه همدیگه میفرستن. 📲 ولی یه نکته کوچولو – هر کس اجازه نداره این عکس رو ببینه، چون‌ مادر در این عکس سر واز هستن. با اینکه عکاس به احتمال خیلی زیاد مرد بوده، این خانم معمولا سرشون و خودشون رو با روسری و چادر می پوشوندن. و در واقع خیلی از عکس‌های قدیمی خانوادگی این دوره این حالت رو‌ داشتن. #تهران #ایران #عکس_قدیمی #تاریخ #iran #tehran #کرمان #kerman

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Iranian artist and historian Beeta Baghoolizadeh is the creator of Diaspora Letters, a multimedia art project exploring the lived experiences of Iranians living in the West. Based in the US, Baghoolizadeh uses her work to celebrate the importance of her cultural heritage and identity whilst reflecting on the transformation of contemporary Iran. Themes of longing and loss can be seen throughout her series of illustrations, and reflect the wider diasporic struggle of identifying ‘home’. 

Rex Chouk

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Mom’s type ☺️⁣ 15 of 15 DM to order 🖼

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This anonymous Saudi-born artist creates uncommon and original illustrations reflecting the absurdity of modern life for many Middle Eastern millennials. By postioning Western meme culture along Arab aesthetics, Chouk recontextualizes familiar imagery to represent their own cultural experiences.

Next time you find yourself endlessly scrolling through an uninspired feed, give these talented artists a follow!

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