Noura and Basma Bouzo: Designers, Creators, and Entrepreneurs
Noura and Basma Bouzo are internationally acclaimed designers and the founders of Oasis Magazine. The popular publication, established in Riyadh, is a bilingual arts and design magazine. Together in partnership with the King Faisal Foundation for Research and Islamic Studies, Oasis Magazine organizes Saudi Design Week. This feature event of the Saudi creative scene attracted an impressive 10,500 visitors this past October.
Noura and Basma, both designers and entrepreneurs, are role models for aspiring creators. As designers, one of their most recent creations, The Water Machine, was featured in the 2016 London Design Bienale. WSB had the honor to catch up with the ambitious sisters and gather insight on their work and professional journey.
M: Can you tell us about your journey as designers?
N&B Our journey as designers varies; we come from different academic backgrounds ( Noura an artist and art historian) ( Basma immunology and public health policy) but despite that we found ourselves co-founding and directing Oasis Magazine ( the first art and lifestyle magazine based in Saudi Arabia of its kind and caliber). Shortly after that, we started curating and managing various exhibitions and pop ups.
Eventually, we found ourselves experimenting with design through installation and thought provoking work and here we are.
M: For the readers who are unfamiliar with Oasis Magazine, can you tell us about the magazine and how you came up with idea of bringing Oasis Magazine to Saudi Arabia?
N&B OASIS MAGAZINE is the arts and design magazine from Saudi Arabia that focuses on elevating the creative conversation. OASIS MAGAZINE, a bilingual magazine, provides inspiring content and sheds light on creatives in the Arab world and beyond. OAISIS drives the conversation so that our audience and readers are always in the know.
Oasis Magazine is not a franchise and was actually established and printed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
M: What has been the biggest challenges and greatest accomplishments in launching Saudi Design Week?
N&B: In any new endeavor there are always challenges but we’ve managed to find an incredible team as well as amazing volunteers that help us make this a success year after year.
We’ve been incredibly lucky and the response to Saudi Design Week has been incredible and has enabled us to really push and promote talented individuals in Saudi Arabia.
M: What are the keys to being both a successful designer AND entrepreneur?
N&B: Persistence and determination
M: What inspired you to create “The Water Machine” and how was it received?
N&B: The London Design Biennale theme for this year was ‘Utopia by Design’ and we represented Saudi Arabia with the installation ‘The Water Machine’.
The general concept of ‘utopia’ and more importantly a utopian relationship with nature is at the core of the exhibition. The theme of ‘Utopia by Design’ plays with the idea of construction- actually actively fabricating a utopia, or at the very least being part of the process. There are so many factors at play from sustainability to pollution to social equality to accessibility, and we found inspiration in the ability for these concepts to overlap and influence each other on a global scale. It is critical that the concept of the unattainability of ‘utopia’ is also addressed- as part of the theme there is a sense of lofty ambition, although it should be highlighted that the difficulty of the goals should not negate the sense of aspiration.
How do we engage with nature and other external forces that allow for a harmonious balance between the two is part of the concept of More’s ‘ideal society’. The basic notion is that an ideal society can only exist if society can subordinate their own personal whims and think of society as a whole- in this case, water- and other natural resources and how we have to think long term about sustainability. There is also an element of satire in the exhibition, much like in More’s synopsis about the nature of the state; highlighting the dire state of water sustainability globally.
M: Do you have any quotes or mantras that you live by?
N&B: “what would you do if you knew you could not fail”
M: What are the hubs for budding designers in Riyadh?
N&B: The art galleries, creative spaces and institutions are still a corner stone in Riyadh such as ASI design studio, Alaan Artspace, Raffles institute, etc.
M: What advice would you give women who aspire for a career as a designer?
N&B: Anyone pursuing design or a creative career should really focus on the foundation as that will carry them a long way. Invest and believe in yourself and never stop learning.
M: Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
N&B: We believer that every person who we’ve encountered has left an imprint on us on one-way or another but we can definitely say our parents have been the most amazing and supportive people in our lives.
M: I know it’s cliché but in your own words, how can each of us work to make the world a better place?
N&B: Listening is a great tool.
M: Thank you Noura and Basma for giving WSB insight into your journey and inspiring other women!
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