Ahead of International Artist’s Day on October 25, three regionally-based artists discuss making a meaningful impact in the world through design, photography and portraiture. Here, Dina Yassin, an Eritrean-American creative director and designer and an avid supporter for diversity in the region, discusses why art and representation are important in the current climate
As a stylist and fashion writer for more than 15 years, working across Europe, the US and UAE, fashion design was a natural move for Dubai-based designer Dina Yassin who was born in Sudan to Eritrean parents. Taking three years to create, Efro & Co is deeply rooted in the origins of East Africa. The fabrics are sourced from different parts of the continent and Yassin considers it a responsibility to bring the local skilled artisans into the fashion forefront and make them feel as if they are a part of the family. There is a strong history behind the brand, one which entails cross-migration and cultural exchanges with other parts of the world.
In explaining her art form, Yassin believes that to be an artist is to have unlimited ability to create. “It’s the ability to be conscious and to express your emotions freely; to be able to share what you dream, to explore and experience vulnerability without fear; and to share your work compassionately and empathically.” It is this focus and passion that drives her creativity at Efro & Co. “I love clothes and making something from nothing, and I’m always inspired by my Eritrean culture and worldly upbringing,” she says.
This world experience and strong African identity has given Yassin the tools and drive to not only design but also give more back to society. At the core of Yassin’s beliefs is the concept that art has the power to change the world. “One of the great challenges today is that we often feel untouched by the problems of others and by global issues. Using art as a strong medium for communicating several issues can make a difference through engagement and using our senses,” she says. This was something that was prevalent at the Sudanese Revolution last year, one of the most creatively artistic revolutions in history which went viral, motivating people to turn their thinking and awareness towards something that required global media attention.
Using art to discuss social, political and ecological issues, can help aid in finding solutions to the challenges that we face in the world today, particularly when supporting Black Lives Matter. As an ardent supporter of this issue, Yassin reflects on the tragic murder of George Floyd, “it struck a chord that we all needed to come together globally and speak up for what has been done, also for the Black people who were victims to police brutality before him, we’ve all had enough and we had to voice our pain.” It is this voice which she believes is vital to ensure that everyone is heard, allowing hopes and fears to be expressed without limit.
In the wake of this year’s world events Yassin focuses on being a conscious artist, more so than ever before. “I believe that many of us realise now that we’re not here forever, that we need to put ourselves and the people we love first, and to create with purpose,” she affirms. It is with this aim that Yassin is pushing boundaries, allowing her work to unapologetically speak for itself without trying to fit stereotypical standards and moulds.