AISHA AL-JAIDAH steps outside the norm and talks about the benefit of animating our lives to what we want it to be.
You are the first local in Qatar to animate a children’s series. Tell us how you ended up running your own animation company Blue Penguin Animation.
I have loved animation ever since I was a child! My Dad got me hooked on ‘cartoons’ whilst we watched them together. Luckily, with the support of my parents and the scholarship I obtained from the Higher Education Institute (HEI), I was able to pursue my career and became the first Qatari animation graduate from Kingston University, London. Following this passion into the industry, I then worked at Al-Jazeera children’s channel ( JCC). One day at home, my husband, a successful businessman, turned to me and said: “Why don’t you open your own animation company here in Qatar?” So, with his encouragement, he helped me turn my talents into business, and that’s how ‘Blue Penguin Animation’ was created.
You were the first Qatari citizen to hold a BA Hons in Illustration & Animation. How did you embrace that level of empowerment?
It was extremely difficult. It was at a time when animation hardly existed in Qatar. Because ofmy university scholarship entitlement, it took the whole summer to convince the decision makers on the major I wanted to take. They regarded it as a ‘weak’ major to study. I remember someone telling me: “ Why study something for 4 years when you can do it as a course for 1 month!”. I was very depressed. I spent all summer emailing and submitting documents. I remember I got accepted at many universities, which gave me hope and the determination to not give up. I also am thankful for my mum that drove me daily there and stuck by my decision. In the end, my perseverance got me there, but I made sure to hold my head high, maintain good grades and not let my parents and the HEI down. Honestly, those 4 years at Kingston, will never be forgotten.
Tell us what female empowerment means to you.
Female empowerment I think, is still an issue worldwide, where we still see the numbers of male-dominated positions being higher than females. However in Qatar, gender equality is improving drastically, thanks to H.H. Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, a great motivator to all women. Females have stood up and stood out in the country. I am glad that more females in Qatar are taking risks to open up businesses, becoming entrepreneurs, more dependent on themselves as well as take important positions in the public sectors alongside men.
Positivity is everything. Name someone who has impacted your approach to life, and strengthened your position as a strong female in Qatar. What did they do to help you through your personal journey?
I owe it all to my parents and husband for believing in me when many didn’t. I am also thankful to Doha Film Institute (DFI), for their continued support when it comes to animation and film making. DFI offered me a grant, guidance and the funding for my first animated short film. They were with me every step of the way, connecting me to famous script writers, talented artists and creative sound designers around the world. They have helped me develop myself from being an animator, to an animation director and producer. Because of them, my film got screened at ‘Cannes Film Festival’.
“Proving that you learn and improve as you go along, it’s what makes us better, and if you make mistakes along the way, that is fine, you will need to push yourself and that will make success that much sweeter.”
Knowledge is power. What challenge have you overcome as a female and how did this mould your approach to everyday life?
I believe that you always have to challenge yourself, regardless of your gender. Proving that you learn and improve as you go along, it’s what makes us better, and if you make mistakes along the way, that is fine, you will need to push yourself and that will make success that much sweeter. Being a female in the animation world is stressful and difficult, yet i enjoy it so much and will continue on this path regardless. This determination made me more confident in my everyday life. I am no longer afraid of risks nor challenges. Today, there are no excuses due to the limitless sources we have. You only have to be truly passionate about it, go for it, and the opportunities will come. Just remember: “If you can dream it…you can do it!” – Walt Disney.