Tamadher Al Fahal
MA Interior Design 2011
Community Engagement and Leadership
After completing a degree in Interior Design at the University of Bahrain, Tamadher came to Birmingham City University to complete her MA. She returned home to teach on her previous course, while also building up her reputation as a practising artist.
Tamadher has contributed to several art workshops and was a member of the Bahraini team at the Venice Architectural Biennale. A venture close to her heart is Project Ulafa’a, which aims to create a comfortable creative environment to listen to different stories regarding socio-political issues from communities across Bahrain, following the recent unrest in the country. The project is based on the belief that people can express themselves through a variety of artistic forms, and that those expressions can facilitate communication and the sharing of stories.
A group of artists works closely with vulnerable young people to use art and design to celebrate the common ground we all share, building a stronger and safer community. In 2014, she was invited to give an inspiring and eye-opening talk in Bangalore on what it means to be a modern Muslim women living in the Middle East today.
She is now back in Birmingham undertaking a PhD with Birmingham City University on the basis of Islamic art and design. She is already a committed alumni mentor here, and visits current students on the MA course to discuss their ideas and offer support.
"The teaching at Birmingham City University was intensive yet eye-opening, not only outwards to the creative world, but also inwards to explore areas within my own personality. The studio was a home away from home, and for that I can only thank our MA Course Director, Delia Skinner. With this atmosphere and mind-set, the course emphasised each individual’s strengths so that you know not only what kind of designer you are, but how you can contribute to the world as a creative individual.
“The availability of useful resources and access to exclusive research portals was very helpful and empowering to my research. The workshops available, along with one-on-ones or tutorials, encouraged us to be more practical with a ‘think-as-you-do’ attitude. The most inspiring thing that I found really valuable is the open atmosphere of the studios where I could check what people from other MA courses were doing, like having a chat with someone from product design, or giving someone a hand in the fashion design studio, or listen to a photography critic session. This atmosphere inspired me to take an inter-disciplinary approach when I returned home to teach at the University of Bahrain.
“At the end of my MA study, the political conflict in Bahrain arose. Project Ulafa’a aims to bring society together again by facilitating art as a form of expression instead of violence. I brought together 12 young artists from different parts of Bahrain, who all believed in the power art had to touch people’s hearts and help in healing. Through a series of artworks and exhibitions, the group mainly focused on community-driven artwork and a collaborative approach, rather than artists producing work in an isolated way. After one year of meeting once a week, and an intensive training week in Peacebuilding and The Arts offered by Brandeis University in Boston, the group opened three independent self-curated exhibitions to the public, offering artworks that spoke to various levels of the community.
“As for my individual work as an artist, I experimented briefly in a few exhibitions through installation art and live performance. Most importantly, I was focusing on subjects of religious misconceptions and cultural conflicts in ironic, sometimes humorous ways. One of the artworks I did which made a bigger impact than I thought it would was Diary of a Mad Arabian Woman which is small electronic zine that taps into the subjects of culture and religion. In 2014, this zine took me to a far-away place that I did not imagine – Bangalore in India, where I spoke about challenging creativity through my zine and Project Ulafa’a, and that marked a highlight in my career.
“With all the art projects that I have managed or participated in, I still wanted to find my own voice as a designer. That took quite some time to form – two years ago, my husband and I were experimenting with illustrations and fashion items, and one year later we established a line under the name of Beige and Teal. Beige and Teal is still a work in progress for us, but it mainly focuses on story-telling and identity references through work ranging from furniture, home accessories and wearables all the way to interior design and curating projects. I am planning, along with my husband, to develop Beige and Teal to become an international brand.
“Another part of Beige and Teal is providing a creative platform for the community, which consists of a café and gallery space. As an academic, I am planning to take my knowledge back to the University I teach at and contribute to reforming studio culture; perhaps even participate in reforming curriculums for Islamic art and design that could be adopted in colleges anywhere.
“For my PhD, my research is mainly aimed at breaking the clichéd image of Islamic art and going back to the profound principles of faith that generated this rich history of art and design. My research is practice-based and reflects my professional role outside research and study; I am an artist, designer and curator and I would love to facilitate my passion for art and community projects as a vehicle in my research.