Remember when we were kids, we used to always draw whatever we imagined or created monologues as we were playing toys or dressed up in the way we felt it expresses our inner personality. Even though, we did not know what a personality meant at that age. We just felt it was a representation of something we felt and resonated with deep inside of us…..more like self-marketing. As we grow, along with the distractions, fears of making a mistake or embarrassing ourselves. Some of us tend to forget how to carry along the confidence to express ourselves regardless of people’s opinions or our self-made obstacles.
You would ask me, “who really cares if they have an outlet of self-expression or not! Maybe people are not creative enough.” I will agree with you, not everyone has to paint, or write poetry or a blog or become a dancer. But the truth is, in order for us to grow and discover ourselves further, expressing through various means of art has proven to be very helpful to increase confidence, self-esteem and being comfortable in one’s own skin.
The youth nowadays are faced with various kinds of distractions and pressures and with various modes of sharing their experiences and moments. But, do these sorts of social media such as Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook, Tumblr, etc. really help them nurture?
And that’s when I decided to go ahead and ask a couple of questions to some of the awesome young people who express themselves publicly in various ways. I met them in events such as Open Mic Nights, Poetry slams and other events around Dubai. I asked them if they think self-expression is essential for us – youth and how does it help us evolve as people and why do they think more of such self-expression events should exist. Here’s what they think:
RAGINI NAGU, YOGA & HOOP DANCE INSTRUCTOR
People learn through doing and that’s why I’m really supportive of platforms that allow people to express themselves. You learn on two basic levels: intellectually and physically. There always needs to be practical application to what you’re learning in order to understand it better.
Hooping Perspective? We’re taught at two different levels – Theory and Practice. Obviously, the theory part you are trying to understand how to do a trick at a mental level and blending the beats with the actions. And what you notice in different people is that some people would be joky or danty or kind of stiff or lose balance. And as a community we need to learn that there’s a different expression for each one of us and there ISN’T one way of doing things. On a physical level, you express yourself in different ways so you can be hooping fast or slow or whatever and STILL, you will be expressing yourself in many ways. Like if you’re doing a body roll, you can do it in a million ways. We need to understand what our expression is and the only to know what our expression is through such experiences or platforms as you experience it physically. Sadly, this is lacking in the school system.
Interesting Fact: There’s this school in which they don’t teach the students maths, science, etc. Instead, they teach students carpentry, book writing or publishing, etc. So if you do carpentry, there will be maths, engineering, art as you need to build the table and you will do the maths and science but under a different umbrella. I think this is REALLY COOL!”
MATHANI MOHAMED, FOUNDER OF BLANK SPACE OPEN MIC NITE. POET.
Facebook: Blank Space
“The reason why I started Blank Space is because I wanted to give people what has been given to me. It’s ironic because I hated poetry, I hated it! I thought poetry was for old people and stuff like that. One day, my friend introduced me to poetry through the first ever show, Roof Top Rhythms and after only three shows, I started writing my own poetry! I never thought I would be writing poetry.
But, the audience was just so amazing and it made me come back again and again and I became addicted and couldn’t stop. I would look for Open Mic Nights on Google in Dubai and I would go there. I noticed the moment, I started writing my poetry, I’m a different person, I see things differently. I look at people differently, I understand people differently and when someone goes up to the mic and says every word. I feel it really deep within my heart because probably, we’ve all been through the same thing in different ways.
#OpenMicNight is giving people a chance to get on the mic and feel like that this is their home and they can share their emotions and feelings without feeling judged or ridiculed by anyone. That’s why, I wanted them to gain confidence because I believe the small amount of confidence you gain here will help you on further on in your life. It will help you grow to be a better person, it will help you with your relations with your family, and even work and most importantly; help you within yourself. There are so many of such events if people would ask but I have a vision which is – I want to leave my imprint in this world on everyone’s heart….Everyone attending those nights take back home a piece of everyone who performed on stage which will make us a beautiful big family.”
ALI EMARA (ANDEO), RAP ARTIST. SPOKEN WORD ARTIST. PRODUCER. CO-FOUNDER OF CANNONBALL PRODUCTIONS
Facebook: Cannonball Productions
“I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live according to a specific standards whether it’s spiritually or emotionally and it’s mainly driven by mass media in a way. I think the problem of failing to live up to this standard creates a lot of pain in a way where we measure our worth by a specific set of standards instead of an internal guiding system.
And so, there are can be a lot of us that feel trapped in very unique problems but they’re actually universal. So, I think in a way when we hear that someone hurts the same way that we do or loves the same that way we do or experiences life in a similar fashion, we don’t feel so alone anymore and we tend to feel that it’s our entire generation that’s facing the exact same crisis.
Without self-expression, it can really feel like you’re the only one going through it and nobody would understand the point of the experiences we go through. And when you find somebody up there on stage pouring out everything you wish you could say. And that’s when you say “OK, so they feel that way too but they’re still doing so and so, they’re still living, they’re still organising events, they’re still out there”. Expressing oneself helps people feel like they’re together and I think that’s what empowers us by making us that feel like that our pain is not so individual but rather a universal phenomenon and we can help each other by expressing…”
MOHAMMED ABUODEH, POET
“In general, when children are growing and being raised by their parents. They are supposedly guided by the parents and the children’s actions are being observed. The children make mistakes and if they’re not that severe and they would only advise them or intervene when it’s needed.
Parents: Nowadays, parents tell their children what they should and shouldn’t do or this is right and wrong regardless if it’s because of religion or traditions or the norms, nowadays. This creates some form of dependence on their parents and they don’t have that outlet to express themselves as since they were kids, they didn’t get the chance to do what they want or go out with their friends, unless their parents gave them the “green light”.
Schools: Kids lose the sense of independence and that’s the beginning of lack of self-expression. And as they grow and go into schools; schools don’t have a curriculum that motivates creativity. I once read, someone from Google saying that if you want to to teach students, you ask them what’s 5+7 = 11. BUT, schools and the education system shouldn’t do that. Instead, they should ask them what makes 11. This way, you give the freedom to choose what can make 11 and this promotes creativity and self-expression.
From the household to make them make decisions, to schools that promotes creativity. This all generates self-expression. Currently, in my opinion, students follow each other and this is why, they fear self-expression due to the fear of not being accepted and low self-esteem. And saying this, that’s when we go back again to Point 1 and 2 earlier….”
AFAF AL KHARFAN, CO-FOUNDER OF DUBAI POETRY SLAM
“First of all, you get the chance to express your art. Second, you express your thoughts. Thirdly and most importantly; the entire experience of getting up in front of an audience is an opportunity for empowerment in itself. We get to connect with people, their ideas and the emotions they have that are important to them. Even if you’re not a performer in such events, it can be a very good experience for you because it’s creating a space with a good energy for people who are gathered for the same reason; that is sharing and expressing are encouraged here. It’s a safe space, that’s why the dialect text created there can be very positive. People are there to share, contribute and exchange.
The reason this is empowering is…because what’s empowerment at the end of the day…this could be a first step for the journey of empowerment is connecting with strangers and expressing oneself and being able to articulate your ideas or your emotions and being able to express what you want is the first step to getting what you want. But being able to show people what’s on your mind is really crucial.
I will quote a rapper, who said “If you can’t speak with you tongue, you’ll start speaking with your hands”. Basically, he was saying that if you take away people’s voices, they tend to get violent and I really believe if there are places for people to rant, or just a space for people to have nice conversations with strangers; sometimes, that’s all what people need.
I think it can go a really long way with youth in terms of simply engaging them. So, sometimes, in schools, you wouldn’t need a counsellor for some students; you just need to engage them. You just need to create a space where the youth themselves, will engage and express themselves. I hate to sound cheesy but the brain is a muscle and you need to exercise it. The same goes with self-expression; you need to constantly work on expressing yourself and you must not neglect your thoughts. That’s why I think such events help in opening youth’s minds even if they’re not there to perform and only to have conversations and express your thoughts. A space for youth to be heard and to begin to experience their importance of expressing oneself and performing help hone your skills of expression and really do a lot for your self-esteem whether it’s someone listening to you or exchanging ideas but it’s not only about poetry. It’s emotional, intellectual, an experience, it’s socialising, it’s everything…..”
AHMAD MAKKI, RAP ARTIST. CO-FOUNDER OF DUBAI POETRY SLAM
“Hmmm…why is self-expression important? I think because we live in a world where we cannot express ourself anymore and that’s when the youth pile stuff inside of them and it can get messy. And that’s a critical issue as not everyone can tap inside and express themselves.
If we keep on creating more platforms and practicing self-expression in whatever form enough times, maybe people can copy it. Nowadays, everything is popping up like Arts House Speak, Blank Space, Dubai Poetry Slam, etc. It’s very nice to see that the city is coming to life and you will see that there will be a renaissance that’s going to happen.
Youth nowadays carry a lot of change with them and it could vary from expecting to fall in love in the “Hollywood” way to living up to some standards. In order to break these chains, self-expression is important and we, as artists, all we can do is lead by example and these words we say can mean nothing at the end of the day if there was no reality that has been lived behind it. And I think that if you can’t express yourself, you’re just going to keep beating yourself.”
ADIL, THE METROPOLITAN HERMIT, BLOGGER. WRITER
“Words can have different effects depending on the individual with a capability of reaching our hearts and resonating on a different level altogether compared to other forms of expression. That’s the power of spoken word altogether! I believe that the youth could use it as an effective tool to not just learn about, but reciprocate and reflect on life while creating something new. There are no limits when it comes to what one can write. Let it be funny, let it be about love or let it be anything that could inspire an individual.
That’s it! I like to keep my words short, simple and hopefully effective!”