Hind Mezaina, a Dubai-based Emirati, has always been a fan of the art scene, whether here or while traveling around the world. But in the UAE, she found it difficult to find a forum where she could connect and share ideas with like-minded cultural enthusiasts and artists. So four years ago, she created one and became a blogger with her website, theculturist.com.
"Whether I'm a participant or part of the audience, I'm very interested in the cultural scene, both here and abroad. And I like to share those things I'm interested in with people - events, interesting things going on - and I thought I should make a blog for this."
The Culturist has become a repository for Mezaina's photography from her many travels around the world, a listing for cultural events in Dubai and a spot for her general ideas and quirky links that she finds on the internet - all meant to inspire conversation and cultivate the arts.
She doesn't just sit on the sidelines of the art world; Mezaina is a part-time photographer, working exclusively with film, and displays her photos on another dedicated website, hindmezaina.com. She has projects and ideas brewing and plans this year to delve further into her photography.
But that's not all she's planning. Mezaina envisions spreading The Culturist from a virtual world into the real world, using it as a vehicle to become more proactive in the Dubai art scene.
"With my blog, I want to be able to host events; you know, 'brought to you by The Culturist'. I had a chance to take part in an art show at Bastikiya in March, so I had a house that reflected basically what my blog is all about - film, photos, music, etc. That triggered something that I want to continue - to host and collaborate with others and do something a bit more than just the website."
Favourite place to eat
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, so on weekends, I like going to Saladicious or The Lime Tree Cafe. Otherwise, I prefer eating in restaurants and cafes that arenít in malls or five-star hotels. Favourites include Bu Qtair in Jumeirah, Lan Kwai-Fong (Chinese) in Oud Metha and Pillars (Ethiopian) in Phoenicia Hotel in Deira.
My interests are always changing, but a favourite of mine has always been the Czech writer Milan Kundera. I like how he portrayed life in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War and love his style of writing with personal stories.
I like vintage shops. In the past couple of years, a few shops have opened in Dubai, but I usually pick up vintage dresses when I travel, though sometimes I find something online.
Easy: Cinema Paradiso. Itís a love letter to cinema. But my top 10 seems to change every year. My favourite directors, though, are Wong Kar-wai and Wes Anderson.
One item I canít live without
My SX-70 Polaroid camera; itís just the most beautifully designed camera ever. And itís a rare camera; anything else I have can be replaced, but I need to have this.
In Dubai, I really like Richard Allenby-Pratt, a thinking manís photographer, and Ammar Al Attar, who I think is great at documenting and capturing life in the UAE.
Who do you look up to the most?
There are a couple of friends I have that I really respect their opinions when it comes to photography. Clint McLean, a photographer and photo editor here in Dubai, and Hester Keijser, the creative director of East Wing Gallery whoís based in Amsterdam. When I have questions or need an honest opinion about a piece of work, I go to them. I value their opinions and judgements.
Favourite place to travel
Iceland has always been high on my list to visit. Iíve always had this kind of long-distance crush on Iceland. I finally visited there this year, and I love the lunar landscape, the barren space. I found the capital, Reykjavik, has a lot of things I really like, friendly people and thereís good music coming out of there. You feel itís a special place as soon as you land there.
I love the Eurovision Song Contest, but I have no shame in saying that. But I also really like the TV show E! News and Fashion Police for my fix of Hollywood gossip.
Kinokuniya in The Dubai Mall, because it has a great selection of the kind of magazines that I like. And OíDe Rose, a boutique selling an interesting mix of fashion, accessories and gift items.