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By Dana Al Rashid
Yousef Albagshi is one of the most prominent names in the world of animation and visual arts in Kuwait. His work is versatile, and ranges from the creation of award-winning short animation films such as Sandarah (2014) and Naqlah (2017) —which he illustrates all by himself—to various commercials and paintings that transparently reflect the reality of society. Through his work, Yousef also boldly sheds a light on important issues, such as the effects of war on families, and expresses his opinions on timely topics.
I speak with the strong-willed Kuwaiti artist about his journey into this world, and his latest short film, For the Sake of Yousef, which sheds a light on the effects of exposing children to violent films. The film won the Best Animated Short Film Award at the Short to the Point Short Film Festival just last year. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I know most artists don’t like this question, but can you tell us a little about yourself and your journey in the world of animation?
Yousef Albagshi: Drawing is the way I communicate with society, whether it’s through paintings or animated films. I’m not seeking to target a specific audience; I share my opinions, ideas and feelings in order to make an impact. I try to convey ideas from my life and my sense of culture independently of the limitations of custom or public opinion. I also believe that any project has its distinct audience.
How have audiences reacted to your more recent short film For the Sake of Yousef, especially since it contains some violent scenes?
Yousef Albagshi: Thankfully, the movie received a lot of positive feedback. It’s directed toward adults. In addition, there was a purpose behind the volume of violence and bloody scenes; they relayed the message behind the film, which is something most viewers understood when they watched the final scene. It’s worth mentioning, however, that there’s a small percentage of viewers who had concerns about sharing the film out of a worry that it would reach minors.
Many people are astonished that you illustrate and animate your stories entirely by yourself without anyone’s help (except for backgrounds and visual effects etc.). Tell us more about this.
Yousef Albagshi: Generally speaking, creating animation is a team effort, but under the current circumstances, in which there is a lack of a production house and there is a scarcity of animators, creating short animated films individually is the most suitable option. Of course the creator has to be a person who is ready to bear the length of production as it can take up to a year to make a 5-7-minute high-quality animation [on your own].
What is your favorite short film of yours that you enjoyed working on, and what makes it special to you?
Yousef Albagshi: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite one as each one of them falls into a different category, and each category touches on different aspects of cinematic pleasure.
Sorry for being intrusive, but do you work in animation full-time or do you have another job?
Yousef Albagshi: I occupy a managerial position in the public sector as a scenic designer, and I work on animation and illustration in my own time.
An animation commercial made by Yousef Albagshi for Crazy Chicken Restaurant.
Of course, we cannot ignore the current circumstances. How has quarantine affected you, and has it been a positive or a negative experience for you?
Yousef Albagshi: My lifestyle hasn’t changed much. I didn’t use to go out much anyway; I devoted most of my time to drawing and learning before the pandemic started. I consider my experience a positive one because I had the chance to spend more time with my family.
Does that mean that new projects will be released soon?
Yousef Albagshi: I am still going ahead with my production plans.
Various artworks by Yousef Albagshi. Click on each image to enlarge it.
What is the biggest obstacle facing the visual arts in Kuwait, in your opinion, and how can we overcome it?
Yousef Albagshi: The social culture and pollution of the mind, which reduces the individuals’ productivity and creativity and turns them into consumerists who are obsessed with material gain and securing their futures.
What motivated you to continue producing despite the presence of many obstacles?
Yousef Albagshi: Obstacles are present at all times and in all fields. There’s no way around that. Given that, why don’t people just choose to do what they love since they’re going to suffer anyway? My love for my work is my main motivation.
What is your advice for someone who’s looking to work professionally in illustration and animation?
Yousef Albagshi: You cannot excel without first facing hardships. Therefore, you must choose to do what you love and find your passion in, because it’s the reason why you’ll fight these obstacles and never give up.
Dana Al Rashid is a Kuwaiti writer and artist. She has a weekly column in Al Jarida Newspaper, and she also writes and illustrates for several independent magazines.
The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.
This article has been translated from Arabic.