x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

My UAE: Hind Mezaina's essentials

The Dubai-based creator of the thecluturist.com describes her favourite places and things.

Hind Mezaina is an artist, photographer and author of the blog TheCulturist.com. Antonie Roberton / The National
Hind Mezaina is an artist, photographer and author of the blog TheCulturist.com. Antonie Roberton / The National

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 aren’t 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.

Favourite author

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.

Favourite style

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.

Favourite film

Easy: Cinema Paradiso. It’s 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 can’t live without

My SX-70 Polaroid camera; it’s just the most beautifully designed camera ever. And it’s a rare camera; anything else I have can be replaced, but I need to have this.

Favourite artist

In Dubai, I really like Richard Allenby-Pratt, a thinking man’s 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 who’s 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. I’ve 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 there’s good music coming out of there. You feel it’s a special place as soon as you land there.

Guilty pleasure

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.

Favourite shops

Kinokuniya in The Dubai Mall, because it has a great selection of the kind of magazines that I like. And O’De Rose, a boutique selling an interesting mix of fashion, accessories and gift items.