Inti Bint means “you’re a girl” in Arabic. It is also the moniker of an incredible artist you need to put on your radar. Having grown up between London and Sana’a, Inti Bint’s work shines a light on her experience as a Muslim woman living in the UK, as well as the current situation in Yemen. As an artist her work speaks to women everywhere, while also amplifying the Yemeni voices that the media often simplifies and stereotypes. She even recently used her platform Al Yamaniah to promote Yemeni women artists while also raising money for Yemen-focused charities. As she’s just launched her print shop, we spoke to Inti Bint about her moniker, her artistic inspirations, and why it is so important to her to use her art for good.
What first drew you to art?
I grew up in quite a busy household – I have 3 older sisters, as well as a younger brother and sister. Living in small London apartments with such a big family as a shy kid meant I would usually hide and just spend hours drawing whatever came to mind. It was my way of expressing myself without words, a way to sit and spend time going through my thoughts in my own space. This stuck with me as I got older, and I have found myself doodling random patterns and drawings wherever I go.
Can you tell us a little about your moniker Inti Bint? What does it mean?
Inti bint spells out the Arabic phrase: “you’re a girl” which is usually used to undermine girls, or tell them to know their place as females, a ‘place’ that in these contexts is usually meant as being ‘less than’ the male, and therefore we are told to always put our wants aside for men. I grew up in both Sanaa and London, and this phrase was said to me a lot in Arabic, but also communicated to me less literally by those around me who spoke English. When I decided to use it as my moniker, it was my way of taking it and changing its meaning to something that suits me, and that speaks to other women like me.
What are your main inspirations?
I am inspired by powerful women, especially women of colour. I am always learning about the work of incredible women both Yemeni and not, like Summer Nasser who founded the charity Yemen Aid, or Layla F. Saad the author of Me & White Supremacy and the woman behind the Good Ancestor pod-cast. These women continue to break barriers and show other emerging women creators like myself, how much is possible!
Do you feel a responsibility to use your art to educate about the situation concerning Yemen?
I feel a certain level of responsibility which I have put on myself, and so I do use art as a medium to inform people about Yemen and other issues; mainly when I have the bandwidth and energy to do so. It’s important for me to make that distinction, because it shouldn’t only be the responsibility of those who come from Yemen to be using art or whatever medium they prefer to be educating and speaking out about the situation in Yemen.
Can you tell us about Al Yamaniah?
Al Yamaniah is a platform I founded in early April to highlight the work of Yemeni women. It was getting tiring continuously seeing the same narrative surrounding Yemeni women, not just in Yemen, but everywhere. So I wanted to create something that could change that, but also have Yemeni women’s work at the core of it, allowing for them to share their work with new audiences but also to get to know and inspire each other.
Which female Yemeni artists should we keep an eye out for?
I’m going to have to say Afraa Ahmed; she’s an incredibly talented artist and she always creates with so much meaning and attention to detail. Her recent pieces “Iris”, which were part of Al Yamaniah’s Prints for Yemen sale, were so stunning and surreal but at the same time made such a powerful statement about Yemen’s traditions and heritage.
You make music too, right?
Yes, I do. Music has been a passion of mine since a very young age, and I’m excited to be finally working on more of it. I have just released a new song called “In My Dreams” which was produced by Crøøk and recorded in lockdown, and I’m working on a few more songs for an EP coming out really soon.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I want to continue making art in both illustrations and music, exhibiting my work as well as performing my music, with the aim to positively inspire other women the same way I have been inspired. I also look forward to collaborating with more artists in the future.