Fatima Al-Nesf: Living her life in cartoons
It’s not what she does as an illustrator and story boarder at Al Jazeera Children’s Channel that she is known for; it’s for what she does outside.
JustHere speaks to Qatari cartoonist Fatima Al-Nesf, creator of FatoomWORLD – a collection of hand-drawn cartoons that are currently trending on social media sites.
The cartoons of FatoomWORLD actually portray Fatima in different daily real-life situations she finds herself in. They are snippets from her life drawn on the first available material. A tissue, a cup, a paper or even glass windows.
“Glass is like heaven to me. I carry a whiteboard marker in my bag and can draw on any glass surface – car windows, store windows and even air craft windows.”
Isn’t that vandalism, one might wonder. “See, I am a good person. That’s why I use a non-permanent marker so that I can wipe it off before I leave,” she laughs. “But there are some stores who tell me not to wipe off my cartoons. They like it.”
While actions might speak louder than words, Fatima says her cartoons speak even louder.
“My cartoons are like a conversation. I find it easier to explain my feelings and thoughts through my cartoons, not words,” says Fatima. “Even at work, I explain my ideas through cartoons. It has an universal language. Anybody can understand it.”
Her cartoons are inspired by Japanese anime. She has also incorporated the Japanese alphabet in some of her work. “I would love to visit Japan one day. I like their culture.”
Fatima has suffered muscular injuries in her left arm since birth, and has undergone numerous surgeries and physiotherapy sessions at Aspetar. She finds it hard to move her left hand, especially when she has to use the computer.
“God left me powerless in one hand, but gave me power to draw in my other.”
It’s that positivity that sees her through many challenges, and it’s that which she tries to spread through her cartoons. Sometimes, the challenges are too close to home.
“My five-year-old niece Wadha has cancer. She is too young to understand what is happening. The hardest time was when she went bald and asked us why she looked like a boy. So I actually drew her cartoons to cheer her up when she was undergoing treatment. In the cartoons, she wanted to be called Princess Wawa. Every girl wants to be a princess. She’s getting better now.”
One of her most popular work to date is the Kaifi drawing. “The cartoon is about me wanting my voice heard, to have things my way,” she explains. The cartoon is now her official logo on social media sites.
“My mother is the one who encouraged me. She would always tell me that I was like a diamond in the mine. I just needed to polish myself and I would shine. I took her advice, and now I am shining.”
But then not everybody is as encouraging as her mother. “People say cartoons are kid’s stuff, it’s not real art. They say you need to draw conventional art to make money. But I believe it’s my cartoons that will bring me money.”
While she aspires to be an animation producer, she also plans to start a business to sell her creations, that include hand drawings as well as felt toys and other cartoon accessories. “I am just searching for the right sponsors.”
Her dreams don’t end here. Fatima wants to build an art school to help artists in the community stand on their own feet. “I want to help make their journey smooth. I am always eager to teach people the basics and techniques of art.”