A story about Arab artist Shurooq Amin who liberated his art through NFTs
For the majority, NFTs are an investment, a ticket to be part of a certain community, or a means by which one can show off their limited-edition digital assets. Yet for artists, NFTs are a powerful tool, offering freedom from censorship, complete autonomy and true independence.
An artist from Kuwait, Shurooq Amin, shared in an exclusive interview with DailyCoin, her struggles as a female artist in an Arab country and how NFTs helped liberate her works and achieve sovereignty in a male-dominated society. and where women are still discriminated against.
“My reason for being part of the NFT community is the absence of censorship. For me, as an artist, the ultimate thing is Web 3.0, which is autonomy. No one can censor me Amin told DailyCoin.
Amin has been a traditional multidisciplinary artist for 30 years – producing acrylic paintings, art installations and video art. When Amin was 40 years old and pregnant with her fourth child, she decided to divorce her husband, which is a shocking and unacceptable decision in Kuwait’s patriarchal society.
“As Arab-Muslim girls, we go from our family’s house to our husband’s house, and we depend on men for everything. I wanted out of this.” She then found that no one would rent her an apartment or give her a loan – all doors were closed to a divorced single mother.
“It was almost like I was living in the Dark Ages, almost like I had gone back 200, 300, 500 years. It was amazing. I was so angry and frustrated that I expressed everything I saw around me on the canvas,” the artist explained.
She created a physical art exhibition in Kuwait, focusing on the moral hypocrisy of Arab-Muslim society. Three hours after the exhibition opened, the secret services came to close it, remove the paintings from the walls and investigate Amin for several months. She was blacklisted by the government, her work was banned in Kuwait. Luckily, the artist was adopted by a gallery abroad and started showing her work outside of her native country.
Amin established her name – she became the first Kuwaiti artist to be invited to the Venice Biennale and to have artwork auctioned off at historic Christie’s auction house. As she received many accolades during her years abroad, in January 2020, Amin was invited back to Kuwait.
The same month after the artist returned to her home country, she put on a big show. Again, the police intervened with the Secret Service’s Department of Information and suppressed all of their work. It became another scandal that went through all the media in Kuwait.
The art of exposing the norms of hypocritical society
Amin has created collections called “Society Girls”, “It’s a Man’s World”, and “Popcornographics”. His art criticizes traditional norms and religious morality. She condemns the society, where a woman must be a virgin before marriage (even if she is 40-50 years old), while this completely excludes men, who can have sex with as many partners as they want. His art exposes corruption in politics and speaks of adultery, exposes the hypocrisy of religious mullahs (religious leaders), as they preach Islam, but then get caught in Cancun, drinking and making partying with prostitutes.
“It’s fine for a man to have mistresses, but if a woman is caught having sex with another man, it’s fine to kill her. We still have honor killings in 2022. “Article 1” of our constitution states that if a man finds out that his wife, daughter, mother, sister, cousin, or niece has slept with a man who isn’t her husband, he’s allowed to kill her, and he won’t go to jail. Amin’s most popular artwork is the “King of Hearts”, which depicts a never-before-seen image of an Arab Muslim man kissing an Arab Muslim woman. In Muslim countries, it is illegal to show affection in public and those who kiss can easily end up in jail.
Having the image of a man wearing a traditional Arab costume and embracing a woman is very harsh and in your face, so the painting caused an uproar in Kuwait and was banned. Yet, it is simply a beautiful image representing love.
Amin’s new collection titled “They Wanted Camels, I Gave Them Camels” is a sarcastic response to haters and critics who have judged her work with the questions, “Why is she doing this? Why does she paint these things on our culture? Why doesn’t she paint camels and beautiful deserts? Our beautiful culture? Why does she paint these messages? Why does she show us in a bad light?
The Camel Skull collection is dystopian, dark and twisted with a tongue-in-cheek response to criticism. Amin used bright colors, beautiful women, and aesthetic imagery to distract from his harsh message.
Being a female artist in a Muslim country
In Kuwait, art is seen as a hobby, not a career path. Also, Arab men have a much easier chance in the art world because they can get out of the house and travel, they have more opportunities. There is always the double standard in society – patriarchy, where unfortunately only men run the show.
“Many people told me that if I was a man, who had painted such pictures and exhibited such messages, I would not have been treated this way. I was treated this way because I I was a woman who dared to go against them. But if I was a man, it would have been a different story,” Amin explained.
“Nobody does what I do. I’m the only one who’s not afraid to do what I do and spread the work and the message and expose the hypocrisy. Many people misunderstand my motive. My motive is not that I hate my country or that I hate my religion. It’s not that at all, it’s quite the opposite. My motivation is to open up a dialogue, to get people talking about the issues, to fix the rot,” she added.
Achieving artistic freedom with NFTs
After Amin’s return to Kuwait and the sudden closure of his second exhibition, COVID-19 emerged and shook the world in February 2020. The pandemic shifted the focus of Amin’s government to the global health crisis – its investigations were postponed. During the global lockdown, when everything went “online”, Amin discovered NFTs. Throughout 2020, she researched, read, and tried to understand new technology, and in early 2021 she started punching and cataloging her art.
“With NFTs, I can get my art out there and the government can’t capture it, suppress it, censor it, or ban it. Art is no longer in the hands of the government, Web 3.0 is bigger than them. So for me, NFTs were a breath of fresh air, a breath of fresh air, it was like, ‘wow, this is amazing, I can finally get my art out there without censorship.’ I entered NFT for freedom – to actually find freedom in my self-expression, in my art, in my message, to have my message uncensored. Many still believe that NFTs are a scam and not useful. Although people said the same thing about the Internet when it was released – no one believed it, the artist spoke.
“People said the same thing about cryptocurrency when it first came out, and now look: those who bought crypto a long time ago are very rich now. And people who invested in the internet a long time ago a long time are very rich now. And it’s not about the money, it’s just the fact that it’s a natural evolution of technology. And because we as creators are really sick and tired and tired of being censored and being told what to do. It’s not art, it’s not real creation, it’s not even just being a painter: that you are a musician, photographer, dancer, videographer or screenwriter, you will find your freedom in this space, because we were all gonna end in the metaverse. That’s the fact. It’s just a matter of having the vision, some artists have this vision, others don’t. Amin sells his NFTs through OpenSea and has established a long-term partnership with the platform “Give Kuw ait”, which is a gateway to internationally registered and verified charities around the world. The artist donates 50% of all their NFT sales and each month they choose a different charity and provide a link to see where the money goes, for full transparency.
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