BEIRUT: Raised in Kuwait and educated in London, Nourie Flayhan continues to return to her Lebanese roots through her artwork to celebrate her heritage and her culture.
Flayhan is a Lebanese illustrator that has found a voice through illustrations that empower women.
Her collaborations with big brands, the latest including Gucci and Kiehl’s, has propelled her to great success and a sizeable followers' base on social media.
Flayhan cites the women in her family as being one of the biggest inspirations for her work.
“A lot of my work is influenced by the memories I have of growing up and going back to the women in the family,” she told Annahar. “Those women were the stronger or the more dominant figures.”
Flayhan recounted her childhood summers spent in the mountains in Lebanon surrounded by family. Her mother, tetas, and aunts used to all gather together and sit and simply talk.
“For you to truly understand Lebanese women you have to sit amongst them,” said Flayhan. “My mother was once my age, my grandmother was once my age, and we have different stories to tell.”
She now believes it is her duty to carry these stories forward.
The influence of strong women in her family is evident in her illustrations. Flayhan repeatedly and deliberately features women with olive skin and curly hair. More specifically, she draws women that look like her and her family members.
Representation is a big part of Flayhan’s artistic message. She recalled what it felt like to grow up not having women in the media that looked like her, which made her feel out of place among her peers.
It was only when she began her studies in visual communication at University of Arts London and a tutor encouraged her to appreciate what makes her different, that Flayhan began to truly accept her identity.
“He told me: ‘Use your culture and your identity because this is what differentiates you from everyone else',” said Flayhan.
After learning to embrace herself through her art, Flayhan hoped that it would help others do the same.
Recently Flayhan received an increase in attention after posting an illustration in response to the crisis in Sudan. The picture depicts a woman weeping blood with the caption “the nightmare that took over Sudan."
The illustration has since been viral and shared across social media platforms. It has also been spotted at protests and pasted on signs decrying the Sudanese crisis.
Following the post, Flayhan found herself flooded with messages and comments thanking her for her art and her message. While Flayhan admitted that while creating the piece, she had not intended to take a strong political stance, she acknowledged that her art clearly has the power to have a meaningful impact on the viewer.
Now that she has reached a position of some success and influence, due to her growing social media presence and well-known collaborations, Flayhan believes that she has a social responsibility to represent Lebanese women as they really are.
“People underestimate the strength of Lebanese women,” Flayhan told Annahar. “They carry so much on their shoulders."
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations. Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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