Najwa is a name of Arabic origin. Meanings: (i) To reveal the secrets of one’s heart and emotions. (ii) The secrets of the heart. (iii) The inner and intimate conversations a person has within themselves. (iiii) Conversations with God, whether in secret or in public.

My mother Najwa is one of the most generous and powerful humans I know. She has been a driving force, a talisman, in my creative journey. Through her eyes and words – and her light – I have understood the radicality of love and continuity. From her I inherited a passion for expression and the desire to bring stories to life. 

There is often a stereotype of the young villager wanting to run away from their rural conditions to find “themselves” in the city. I never felt that way and I often attribute that to my mother. Because of her unwavering love, she protected me as a child and knew how to keep me both grounded and soaring. In her presence I was able to find beauty and cultivate meaning from my surroundings.

Growing up, I was often pushed to fold myself into something easily digestible. My differences were, in one way or another, moulded into a category of sorts. Thankfully my mother reminded me to be myself fully. Because of her wisdom I did not have to box myself; I was allowed to roam wherever I needed to go. 

In a world where people often say fashion is not for those from the villages, my mother offered me fabric to recycle whenever I asked. Young and curious, I would sit beside her, watching how she wordlessly gave character to her clothes and how she spun stories from the air around us. There was one particular piece of hers that I loved - it was purple and brown and it shimmered magnificently. Though it was very dear to her, she allowed me to reuse it.

Needless to say, as I move forward with this next chapter of mine – chapter seven – my connection to Najwa continues to inspire me to lean into the odd, the exploratory, the ancient and historical, the playful,  the soft.

Interviewed and written by Nur Turkmani 

Documented and photographed by Mohamad Al-Rifai