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GUST Hosts TEDx Event on Campus

21 November 2018

Gulf University of Science and Technology (GUST) hosted its first ever TEDx event on its campus last week – TEDxGUST. The theme for TEDxGUST was ‘Make Your Mark, Mark Your Making’. It was curated to ignite discussions on the deep-rooted, but often overlooked, links between art and design and their impact on one’s community.  This unique relationship is given the term “social design”, and the theme was explored by means of six locally and internationally renowned speakers who have used art and design to empower and uplift their communities.  Through the multi-disciplinary speakers and projects featured during TEDxGUST 2018, the audience was exposed to a range of community driven examples that feature design thinking as the primary driver for the betterment of society.

TED is a non-profit organization whose aim is to spread ideas, usually in the form of short, impactful talks. The first event took place in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design crossed paths, and today it covers almost every topic imaginable. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events, such as the one held at GUST, help spread ideas in communities around the world.

TEDxGUST started with two prerecorded TED talks, one on how the Movember movement started, and the second on how online activism sparked the Arab Spring in Egypt. This was followed by the evening’s first speaker, Mohammad Abuhakmeh aka Mostarr, Kuwait’s most prominent graffiti artist. He spoke about how he insisted on involving his local community, wherever he was, in joining him in creating art for improving living. Mostarr is an ambassador for Amaphiko Academy in South Africa where he works with poverty marginalized children.

Lynn Berry, a fibre artist from Australia, is one of the co-founders of the 5000 poppies project. The 5000 poppies project was originally inspired by Lynn’s late father, who served in the army during World War II. She set about crocheting poppy flowers as a mark of respect and remembrance to those who have served in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. Her venture quickly blossomed into a number of installations around the world, thus making an impact far beyond her native Melbourne. In commemoration of the end of World War I, her installations could be seen as far afield as France, and had pride of place at the Chelsea Flower Show.   

Wakim Zeidan, co-founder and general director of Nuqat, spoke about the organisation’s main goals. Nuqat was born out of Zeidan’s frustration with sub-standard work that was produced in the region in terms of design and advertising. Nuqat is a non-profit organization that organizes workshops, seminars and cultural events throughout the year to cultivate and satisfy the innate curiosity in children and adults. Today, Nuqat's annual flagship conference whose theme is design-centric, brings together thousands of participants from around the word to discuss the current state of art, design, and creativity in the Arab world.

Shiny Varghese and Caroline Flaherty are both faculty at GUST. Both veteran math educators, they spoke passionately about how they believe that all students have the capability to master any subject at all, including math, which has proven to be the subject that most students dread anywhere in the world, but especially the Middle East. They engaged the attendees through a series of interactive activities.

Lubna Saif Abbas is a well-known local artisan, jeweler, and caretaker of the Yadawi Studio. Abbas spoke of the origins of her passion for local artisanal work and creativity, and lamented the dwindling mastery of the craftsmanship that goes into making these beautiful pieces, and their replacement with branded and commercial pieces. In 2007, she established artisanal collective Yadawi (which means “by hand” in Arabic), which now hosts a variety of workshops throughout the year.

The TEDxGUST event ended with Richard Camacho, an architect with offices in Portugal, Kuwait and the USA, and a professor at Kuwait University and Northeastern University. Most famously here in Kuwait, he is known as being the Lead Designer of Al- Shaheed Park, a communal green space which has become the focal point of many social, cultural, and sporting activities. He spoke about how politics and culture influence design, and how spaces have the power to shape how one interacts with the environment, and how it can become a tool for societal cohesion and a space for creativity.

Antonia Jolic, instructor at the GUST Mass Communication and Media Department and main organizer of the TEDxGUST event, said, “It’s so great to bring together so many talented individuals who have made such a long-lasting impact on their communities through the power of art and design. We have so much potential here in Kuwait, and I hope that through this event, we will inspire people not only to unlock their buried talents, but to use that talent to make their lives and the lives of those around them better.”

The TEDx event was the first to be held at the university, and was open to the public. The university often hosts high profile events, such as the recently held International Federation for Information Processing Conference, the Kuwait Computer Programming Competition, and The Seen 2 Conference, a four-day creative industry conference which celebrated local visual communicators. The university is set to host more events in the near future.