What do Oman and Japan have in common? Well, apart from a craving for fish and rice, their kindness and outstanding hospitality is one of the most visible, striking similarities between the two nations.
Such similarities and shared interests are fodder for Omani manga artist Nof Al Zadjali who fuses Omani and Japanese cultures in simple, yet astonishing strokes.
Al Zadjali exhibited her 17 works of art in June in two locations in Japan. The exhibition was held as part of an official launch of the third friendship association between Oman and Japan.
She was chosen by the Oman and Nara Friendship Association to represent Oman in the event.
“I thought of doing paintings which have a blend of both cultures for the occasion,” Al Zadjali said.
Her paintings captured the beauty of Oman and Japan across an array of topics ranging from fashion to jewellery, green tea and nature.
The first exhibition took place at the Takumi No Mura Art Institute in Kawakami village.
“There I met the mayor of Kawakami village and presented him a signed copy of my manga (Living Dreams).”
Later the exhibition was held at Tenri City, a beautiful little town in Nara.
“I had the opportunity to meet the mayor of that city as well, and I presented him an artwork which depicted a scene of one of the most famous shrines in the city, and an Omani tourist walking inside,” she said.
Al Zadjali’s love affair with anime goes back to her childhood. Funny enough, she did not know that anime was a form of Japanese art until she was in high school.
“I have been watching anime since I was a kid on German, Italian and French TV channels. And of course, I never understood what they spoke back then, which made me focus on the art details and the animation,” the 29-reay-old artist said.
After publishing her manga (a Japanese comic book), she is working on volume 2 of her book. Y magazine catches up with the emerging artist to know more about her craft and creativity.
So how does Nof Al Zadjali overcome artist’s block?
There are many ways to overcome artist’s block, for example, going through Instagram profiles of professional artists and surfing the Internet for creative communities and websites, watching art videos on YouTube, reading a good book and taking some time away from screens, etc. Then comes the sketching part, creating the idea on paper, from scratch. There will be many “undo” clicks and erasing at this stage. But it is usually very enjoyable and it helps to let the stress out.
Some artists stop at this stage and prefer to share their unfinished sketches online. After that comes the outlining and clean-up stage where we have to go over the final sketch one more time and determine the right strokes and delete the others. We usually create very smooth and clean line art, but some like it to be messy, it depends on the artist’s style. The last part is the colouring stage, breathing life into your artwork. To me personally, it is the most fun part and I usually like to share my artworks fully coloured.
What message do you want to convey through your work?
Every artist must have a list of websites, artist profiles and books which they can always refer to for inspiration. Visual feeding is very important and effective. Nevertheless, continuous practice and the urge to learn more will make the difference. In the exhibitions we’ve also presented other Omani products along side my work, such as frankincense, Omani traditional clothes as well as photo books of Oman’s most beautiful places and educational videos about my country.
How did the Japanese react to your work?
They were kinda surprised at the ideas I came up with, but they were also interested in Omani culture and how it looked very similar to theirs. The artworks made them feel related and interested to know more. Many visitors at the exhibition were fascinated by Oman, some of them never heard about it before. They’ve showed interest to visit the country in the near future!
What is your biggest project so far?
Personally, I feel proud about my first manga book titled Living Dreams. I wrote the story in 2008 and I wanted to publish it as a written novel, however I stumbled across many obstacles which put me down. Then I realised that these obstacles were for my own good. I started to draw digitally on Wacome Cintiq screens, and greatly improved my art skills. Only then, around 2016, did I decide to start creating the story as a manga. So in 2017 I participated in the Middle East Film & Comic Convention (MEFCC) in Dubai, and self-published the very first manga. Drawing the manga took me about three months, from sketch to finalising to adding text, etc. Creating manga books is usually done by teams, but when it’s a one-man work, it takes a lot of effort and time.
The story is about a boy (Firas) who sees the same mysterious, lucid dreams every night and never understood their meaning. He decides to find out more about these strange dreams and then he meets a man (Hadi) and that’s when he realises that his dreams are much more complicated than he thought. They face a group of enemies (The Knightmares) who keep causing people awful dreams. ν