Abdulmalek Haddad, or as called Malek, is a 25 years old illustrator from Benghazi, Libya. He is a senior medical student at University of Benghazi. Drawing is something he has done since the first day he held a pencil as he described. His childhood pictures would have him holding a paper and a pencil. He is always sketching something. His late uncle was a painter. Whenever he was in town, he would buy colours for Malek and he taught him the basics of drawing.
His uncle was his first reference. This is how it started as a hobby and it was still a hobby as he grew older around middle school and high school. He focused on his academic life more than his hobby. The environment was inspiring where he got his education but there was a lot of pressure. That pressure kept him from finding his own passion and pleasure.
In his senior year in high school, the revolution happened and the educational system was under a lot of pressure and also corruption. Many results were inaccurate and Malek lost his chance to be amongst the top 10 students on Libya in order for him to get a scholarship to study abroad. In that period, Malek turned to art to let out his frustration.
He seized the opportunity to discover art and he noticed that he abandoned his hobbies and it was an opportunity to explore himself as a person. He was obsessed with Anime and Manga, he tried to draw a story and he realized that he didn’t have the basics to draw a full comic book. His first comics were terrible as he described.
He got the excitement when he found something that represents him. He practiced art during lectures breaks when got admitted to university in Benghazi. However, he never posted anything online but he kept his work for himself.
In 2014, his sister encouraged him to post his work online. He was still not interested. He only had a Facebook account and he was not even that active. She insisted that he does it. So, he did it. His sister was his main supporter. She started to share his work in groups to help him expand and he was still not in the level he aspires to be in. In 2015, he started to get friend requests from people who has interests in the same things he does. At that time, he applied to be with Habka magazine. It is the first Libyan Manga/Comics magazine. The team started to meet up and he found other people with the same interest as him like Abdullah Hadia. That provided a boost for his skills and the work he does. They issued 5 issues of the work of many creative local artists and illustrators.
His talent improved with the continuous practice and dedication. In early 2018, he started to get commissions. They were from Libyans abroad. He said it was challenging because the artist should be prepared for what customers ask for. It was as he described ”The Peak” of growth for him when he opened the commissions which enabled him to get better at his work. In this year, he opened comics commissions only. Now he is in a place where he can choose which style to focus on. Comics and books covers are what he is focusing on in the mean time.
He is inspired by many things, not only people. He always has a notebook with him and he writes the things he might draw or like. He still likes to use the term ”illustrator” to describe himself. He likes comics a lot and they inspire him in many ways. Sometimes, inspiration is visual art on itself.
He used what people think of and their point of views to express them in his illustrations. He started a set where he described terms like time, language, and belonging on the basis of people’s perspective. He is always taking notes and he gets inspiration from writers, tweets, and Facebook posts. Public discussions can be a great source of inspiration too.
He started a theme inspired by the richness of Libya’s culture and traditions. ”Libyan traditions are over-used”, people began to use it as it became the easy way out to get likes and comments. There is a total culture that it is not used or explored yet both modern or Old. Malek seized the opportunity to explore it and creatively express it.
He likes to create visually appealing designs. He found the wedding tent idea on Pinterest, he studied it and reframed it with his own style and added new elements to it to make it unique. Also, the blackouts in Libya. That inspired him and he wanted to document what is going on in the daily life of people. The corona and the curfew phase as well.
In addition, he did other three themes inspired from Libyan myths. These are Azuz Al-Gaila (the one to the left), Arab Yamam, and Fitasha (The illustration underneath), as called locally. He wanted to focus on the things that are not focused on by the community. He wanted to portray value. Malek began to explore Libyan myths in ways not so many people have done it before. He collected information and started to create special illustrations of these myths. The same idea exists even in western cultures.
It is across all cultures. For example, Fitasha is a dish, made in the eve of Hijri year, usually couscous with meat and it should be eaten by kids. Usually kids refuse to eat it. So, if they don’t eat it, older people would tell them that an old lady will come at night to check their tummies. ”There are many forgotten traditions” Malek Described. He asked his audience about more suggestions and he started to collect the suggestions and notes to be kept for future illustrations.
His advice for artists in Libya, be true to yourselves. It is okay to suck in the beginning. As long as you like what you do, keep going. Work on yourself and it is not easy, nevertheless, make the best of the experience. Dedicate time to study and learn until you gain the skills you hope to gain. There is always space for improvement.
Be careful with getting overly complimented. Plagiarism is a big deal and people in Libya still don’t get it. Self awareness is essential when you share your work, however, stay humble. ”The last thing to think of is the likes and interaction of people on social media but if you don’t do it to satisfy your desires, it means that there is something wrong,” Malek finally added.
You can follow his work on Instagram: malekhaddad