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Jalal Luqman’s name today is known both locally and internationally. But his journey to becoming the UAE’s first digital artist in the 1990s was not a walk in the park. His passion for computers and art showed at a very young age but reality forced him to make other professional choices first. After dramatic events turned him from wealthy to poor overnight while he was studying in the USA, he managed to finance his business degree with blue-collar jobs, while secretly following art classes in the evening. Jalal’s art, which is sometimes qualified as dark, has gone through different phases, using different kinds of media. He recently published his first book, The Armagondas – Volume 1 – an epic fantasy graphic novel inspired by true events.
In this interview, the artist explains his long journey and remembers life as a child in the UAE, when his father worked as one of the first lawyers in the country.
Caption: Book Signing during Abu Dhabi Book Fair 2018
Nathalie Gillet: Before we speak about your artwork and the novel that you recently published, can you tell us about your long journey of becoming an artist and now an author?
Jalal Luqman: I always say that I stumbled into the arts world. I never intended to be an artist, but I guess I was dragged into it by the elements. I did some commercial art for three months for a client a long time ago and I didn’t know they had secretly applied for an art exhibition for me. Had I known of course I wouldn’t have given them all the samples that they needed, because I always thought that becoming an artist was something very big, and I did not deserve to be called an artist (…)
Then I received this phone call from the cultural foundation in Abu Dhabi, this was back in 1996, and they told me that my application for an art exhibition has been approved. On the phone I acted normal like I knew what was happening, but in the back of my mind I was wondering “what happened? How? Who? I suspected some people. Today I thank them for that.
The years following that had just become one thing after the other. Art became an integral part of my life. I continued and very swiftly expanded my exhibitions and my client base. I moved from being the premier digital artist in the region to becoming a mix media artist. When I was making a painting about a man in prison, I thought why not make real prison bars; if wood was supposed to be in the art work, then why not use real wood, etc. I just continued to educate myself in different mediums and used them. A lot of failed experiments, but with a lot of failed experiments came a new genre of artwork that I was satisfied.
Some of the artworks became so popular that I didn’t even have the chance to take a picture of it, before it went to the client’s house – which I’m not complaining about because artists need money as much as everybody else.
Is that something you had studied?
No, I took a minor in college in graphic design and in art history. I didn’t study that. What I studied was international marketing and entrepreneurship. Later on I ended up having enough time to get a master’s degree in cultural and creative industries.
You’ve been exhibiting or working with arts for over 20-30 years. It looks like art has always been part of your life.
Yes, art has been a blessing, but it has also put me in a lot of trouble. From a young child, I got used to the corner, because when the subject was boring – and all of them were to me, I hated school – I would travel to my interesting worlds that I created. I would draw them on the books and on the tables and then I’d be rudely interrupted by the teachers. They would pull me from my ear and put me in the corner. I became best friends with the corner. I hope no kids are listening to this, haha…
As I got older I used art in different ways, what I enjoyed as a young child was the ability to provoke through art. Of course, it was exciting to know that I could actually provoke the teachers and the classroom because of my artwork.
These are the seeds. It was there. Unfortunately back then the education system wasn’t educated enough to know how to deal with kids like me who enjoyed drawing and creating things, but we survived, and I thank the teachers who punished me for doing that. I think I’m glad that I studied what I did, because I managed to self-teach myself through a lot of accidents and experiments. Even when I started welding the invisible giant I made myself blind a couple of times.
The Invisible giant is the huge metal sculpture that you did, right?
Yes. It’s a giant metal sculpture in human form, with exaggerated features. I created it out of galvanized steel. Before I worked on him I had very minimum experience in welding. I had done a few other projects but they were much smaller than him. He weighs almost a ton. I built him like somebody would build a car basically. There was a frame and then I covered the frame with galvanized steel and so forth.
At one point I lost all feelings in my fingers because I used to always touch the metal while it was still hot and stuff. Sometimes when I wanted to use my phone it wouldn’t respond, because the skin on my hand was so dead. It was like touching the screen with plastic or something. It was all a great learning curve.
You said somewhere that this invisible giant is a “representation of all the really good people who get side lined”. What did you mean?
I believe, we have great giants in society, giants in politics, giants in medicine, giants in art, giants in everything. Sometimes these giants choose, either by pressure of other people, or pressure by society to become invisible. Then unfortunately the world no longer enjoys the science or the contribution that these giants have made. Some giants are forced to stay quiet. Some are pushed or pressured into just being numb or being useless. That’s how my giant came about, because even when you see its features, he has strong legs and strong arms and a big chest and all of this, but then his head is very small, very humble.
His position also…
Yes, a hunched back, to show how humble he is. If he stands tall he might look very scary, very aggressive. A lot of us in society sometimes are giants. And we beg society, we beg to help, to contribute, to support, unfortunately real life isn’t like that.
Things were not easy for you in the beginning. You really had to fight to get to where you are now, and to find the right balance between reality and what you actually wanted to do, which was art.
Yes, I had to self study the skills that I needed to be a professional artist. At the time you think of what’s useful now, what’s lucrative now. Because when you don’t have the luxury of disposable income, then you concentrate on what actually does pay the bills. I was always running after this opportunity and that client and this material, an exhibition here, that collection of artworks I had to finish and whatever.
I remember the moments when I found time to sit down and write chapters or pieces that went into The Armagondas, my novel. It was that when I was traveling or sitting in a waiting room before a meeting, or in a coffee shop – which explains why a lot of the early chapters of the book were born on napkins and tissues.
Before we speak about the book, I would like to know more about your early years as a student in the United States and then found your way to arts – against all odds. Because it wasn’t a walk in the park…
No indeed. I didn’t want to study business, and I didn’t want to study entrepreneurship or marketing or anything like that. I just wanted to go and study art. At that time the education system here didn’t support any arts schools or anything like that. My dream was that if I was able to go to the States for example, I would study art and just follow my dream.
I had to trick my family and tell them, “Okay, fine, I’ll go and study business.” And so I did, I studied business but then I snuck into a few classes of arts and graphic design, and things like that. This ended up being the perfect combination, because I studied the business part, and I refined my art ability. They say artists are terrible at marketing themselves. I wasn’t one of them. I knew very well how to market myself.
And I like to adopt the style that Madonna was using. Every year Madonna would evolve into something different. By the time people follow her, or try to copy her, they are already in old fashion. I liked that. That’s what I kept on doing. Every time I would evolve into something different.
The beginning was digital art, and I chose that because I wanted to be the first. There was already an established oil painter and an established water painter, and all of that, and I didn’t want to be the second or the third. So I became the first digital artist. Not only in the UAE. I was the first digital artist in the region.
Which wasn’t the easiest option by the way because at that time digital art was something quite new, even outside the region right?
Yes. People didn’t understand how I worked. And it was really difficult. Even copyrighting or protecting my work was impossible. You just had to it do the old fashion way. I’d put documents in the post, and a date stamp on it, and then send it to myself This was the only way I could prove that I had done this work. There was no copyright agency in those days.
There wasn’t even any Internet…
No, of course not. The Internet came later. Even no USB. When I worked for a client I’d actually have to buy a big storage unit. It would save 80KB or something.
How did you get this fascination for computers? It seems so far from what we imagine to be an Abu Dhabi person’s life with the sand, the sea, the heat outside. How did the digital world make its way into your life?
I got into it by chance. It’s really of a strange story. The game pong came out. You know that game where you have the paddle and a ball. I really liked how it worked. I kept asking and it was really difficult because we didn’t have the internet and nobody around knew. There were a few bookstores that had some books with a vague idea. Then in one magazine they spoke about a computer where you could program your own games. I thought that if I had that computer then I could program my own games. So I got into it purely because I wanted to play games 🙂
This was in the early 80s. The personal computer barely started to show up. And they would connect to a TV. There was no memory or storage, so you’d type the program in and play it, and when you disconnected it, then it was gone. There was no storage. The good computers back then – now, your mobile phone is more powerful than them – were too expensive, but I managed to buy one, which was around 10 British pounds. I think it was called Z680 or something. It was… agonizing!! The keyboard was flat and you had to press really hard. But I spent hours programming on that. Then after that I managed to convince my father to buy me a computer – which was called, the Atari computer – I just started teaching myself machine language.
Without taking any formal lessons?
No, on my own. There was a booklet that came with the computer and I remember I ate it up. I taught myself basic, the language which is beginners or symbolic instruction code.
So the child who was best friends with the corner started teaching himself computer programming…
Yes (hahaha)! And I just continued doing that, because I wanted to be good enough to make my own games. Then it was much harder, there were no books, there was no internet, there were no mentors because nobody cared.
Did you have any friends who were also interested in this, or were you really alone?
I was alone for a while until I found one or two friends. We would exchange information and then we’d hear about certain books and magazines that were in America and the UK. When we heard that somebody was going to any of these countries we’d give them a list of things to buy while they are there. Most of the time they would go there and come back without buying us anything. Or they’d go there and then on the way back they’d remember and walk into any of the bookstores in the airport and just buy whatever had a keyboard on it, any magazine even if it was not the right one or something for a different kind of computers.
When they got it for us, it was like holding a sacred scroll. We’d take the books and we taught ourselves how to modify programs that were for that computer instead of this one. So instead of writing a comma on this computer you would do a backslash on that computer, etc.
Exactly, but for me it was a valuable publication! When I was done with it, I’d put it back in its plastic bag and I’d give it to my friend who would then give me one in return. And we continued doing this until the time came that we needed to travel to study. When I travelled I stopped using computers for a while.
And studying necessarily meant traveling? Where there no university in the UAE at that time?
No. I think at that time Al Ain University had just opened. But they only had law and other things that were not related to what I was interested in. Of course I didn’t get a scholarship because I didn’t get a good percentage in college and didn’t qualify for any scholarship. The corner proved to be bad for my scholarship. Anyway, I managed to go to university, and I studied art on the side. I exhibited a little bit while I was there.
Did you have to finance everything yourself?
Well, one year into my study my father died. So whatever money was left I just put it into my school tuition. I then had to do a lot of odd jobs under the table to pay for the rest, because I was not allowed to work in states. I did a whole bunch of really crappy jobs. I was a janitor for instance for a while. I also used to collect cans and recycle them, things like that. I used to smoke, and in my silly mind I thought that if I could sell enough cans to buy a pack of cigarettes, then I wouldn’t have an appetite to eat. So one pack would be instead of eating for a few days…
It was a silly philosophy, but I’m glad that happened many many years ago. One thing led to the other of course, and then I started also freelancing. Then I went back to art. I realised I could do some stuff with art which would get me a little more money. I did logos, I designed t-shirts and things like that.
Was graphic designer your first real job?
It was my first real part-time under the table job haha. I did that for a while. At the same time I also got into competitive martial arts. The prizes weren’t that good but I managed to go up to my second degree black belt and reach a competitive level. The good thing about that was that then I was able to give self-defense classes to ladies. That didn’t last very long, because it just took too much time and I ended up sleeping through college… Then I did graduate. But when I came back to the UAE with my university degree nobody wanted to hire me.
Yes, despite my degree. It was really hard. I didn’t have a job for almost a year. Then when I did find a job they said they couldn’t give me a job as a graduate. I had to apply like I had a high school degree. Desperate and at the time – I had a wife and a child – I said yes – which was really good, because I was still hungry. I remember my salary was 2,500 dirhams, when all my friends were making, 14, 15, 16,000.
That’s when I thought I should freelance again. And that’s when my life changed. I was faster and better than a lot of other companies that were there. I was much cheaper, because I didn’t have any overheads and stuff. That’s also when I entered in the art world. Everything that happened, which at the time I thought was bad, was actually a building block to give me all the skills and the experience that I need to create the person I am today. Going through all of the recycling and doing the janitorial work, and all of that prepared me to doing really hard work in sculpture and in mixed media and in seeing the value of discarded materials and all of that. Also, it’s very humbling as a person, you value every person for their merits, and not for their nationality or their wealth or their education and so forth. You value people as people.
Eventually the job did evolve into another job, and I got offers from different companies and agencies and so forth, which was great Until finally about 10 years ago I just took a leap of faith, and I quit the corporate world all together, and I just became a full-time artist and art consultant.
What were you first pieces of artwork that this lady found so interesting that she applied for a competition on your behalf?
That lady saw the skill, not the subject. They had been dealing with a lot of companies who would overcharge them and took so long to produce. When working with me she noticed that I was much faster, more accurate, and much cheaper than these other companies that they were hiring.
As for the subjects of my work, a lot of people considered them very aggressive and dark. They didn’t really look beyond the obvious. My paintings discussed the true human ingredients. We all have love and hate, and envy, and happiness and sadness, and all of this. A lot of other people, especially in our culture, we like to cover it up, and show the beautiful side of things. Then Jalal comes and rips the cover off and shows humanity in all its ugliness, or in all its beauty. That’s the thing. She saw beauty in, or she saw the ability of beauty.
So this aggressive or dark side of your pieces already showed at that time?
Yes. It wasn’t because I was angry of life, but I explained, or I portrayed things that irritate me in a very raw fashion. I’ll give you an example. One day I was driving and the person on the radio was speaking about this two-year old little girl who had been beaten to death by her father. He had her on his lap, and he was feeding her, and she spilled the food on him, like any two year old would do. He got so angry that he hit her until she died. The mother was sitting in the corner watching.
It made me so angry, because I put myself in the girl’s situation, of here I am with the person who is feeding me and is supposed to love me, and protect me from evil happening to me. This love and protection has turned against me, has betrayed me. Then I put myself in the situation of the mother. You are sitting there, and you are seeing your lovely two-year old daughter being killed while you sit there doing nothing. I was just too sad… So I made the painting of a woman with a black face, with a teddy bear, a bloody teddy bear in her hands. I called the painting “Another Silence”, because this silence was just another way of killing that daughter.
A lot of people looked at that painting, and they were like, “You are so violent.” No, I’m not. Had you studied the origin of the painting you would have known that it’s all about love. My way of portraying is so raw that it just scares people off. It never changed me.
What are you the most proud of in terms of your work?
I don’t think I can say that I am proud of work. I’m… happy about the journey. Happy that I’m just stubborn enough to stay in it, regardless of how difficult it is. In the early days I would get kicked out of people’s offices, because they get offended about how I painted a camel or how I painted a horse. A lot of people quit. A lot of people can’t take the insults, and the ridicule, and the lack of support. I’m happy that I stuck with it, that the hard times just refined me. It conditioned me to be ready for anything.
I had people come to some of my exhibitions and pull paintings off the wall, because they were offended by them. At some point I was so scared that I would remove paintings. I remember at one point I did that. Then I went home, and I was so angry. I promised to God, I would never ever pull a painting down again. This happened around 2006 and I vowed that regardless of how offended people got, I would never allow them to dictate what I believe in. In 2006 is when I came out with a new collection, and a new philosophy called “After the Silence”. Because I considered all my art work silence. Everything from this point on was going to be raw and exactly what is in here. It’s gonna come out. If you like it, good for you. And if you don’t like it,… good for you (hahaha)…
2006 is the year when you opened also your own gallery?
Yes. Because all the galleries, all the places were afraid to show my new collection. I thought OK, a gallery doesn’t want to exhibit my artwork, I will just open my own gallery. I will invite like-minded people to come and exhibit their artwork where anybody else doesn’t allow them to exhibit. Come, you are welcome to exhibit in my gallery. And that’s what I did. When I launched my collection, it was the highest selling art exhibition that I had ever had up to that point.
People came to your gallery and bought the pieces?
Yes, and even before that I showcased it outside. The pieces were just selling. Then in 2015 I opened my current art gallery in Dubai which is E citizen earth gallery, in the Dubai design district. That’s where I show all my artwork today.
You also support a lot of younger Emirati artists, can you tell me a little bit about what do you think of the UAE art scene at the moment, and thinking of the Jalal trips for instance and the gallery maybe.
I have to rephrase that. I support younger artists. It doesn’t matter to me if they are Emirati or not. I support them, because there is no need for them to reinvent the wheel. with promoting or exhibiting their artwork,. Thank God now everything is around. The internet has played a major role. I can see the work of an artist who lived a 100 years ago, who lived 7,000 miles away, in just a few key buttons presses away.
The internet has made that possible. There is a lot of things that young artists need to learn. I’m a firm believer of sharing the knowledge. Although we have the Louvre and plans for the Guggenheim, and the cultural district and all of that, the local art scene still needs a lot of support for them to support each other. Artists cannot rely on the government handing them money or to spoon-feeding them like if you give me money then I will produce.
I know how to weld, how to design in 3D, I know concept design, world building, I know how to write and so on so I must share it. This is the only way we will improve the local art scene.
And now, after all these years of visual arts, you have published your first novel, “The Armagondas”. That’s something new in your life even though you’ve been working on it for quite a while…
Yes, I started writing it in 1986, 1987. Then I added to it the following years. I had a whole bunch of notes, and napkins and cardboard out of boxes which I would write on and then just cut it off. When I decided to put everything together I had hundreds of thousands of words which I couldn’t put out in only one book. I had to spread them out into six main volumes. But it has the ability to branch out into so many hundreds of different possibilities, and create hundreds of different little stories.
Can you give us an idea of the story itself?
The Armagondas is based on a small group of people who left their homeland to go live on a peaceful island which they called Armagon, under the rule of a very wise king. this king left behind him a legacy of war and bloodshed. He made the decision that “I’m not gonna do this anymore. I don’t believe that we were created to kill each other and to do all of that”. He left everything behind and found this island which he called Armagon with a few followers who called themselves The Armagondas. It was a good life for 50 years, until something changed their lives forever. That is the premise of the story, and the journey of people who lost everything. And the hope of returning one day.
The book itself is a nice object. It has a thick cover, many drawings – we are far from the napkins and tissues here. Every other page has a drawing with the story’s characters on it… with a quite interesting style.
Yes. The story is a fantasy graphic novel inspired by true events. When I started The Armagondas, they looked like monsters, very similar to ogres. They had horns, big fangs. And you can still see remnants of that in the story, because somebody got hit, and a fang fell. But The more I wrote the book, and the more I went back and I read it and I rewrote, and I read it and I rewrote, and I read it. The more human they became. When they became more human, the more it made sense to me.
For example, I’d be jogging, and then I would remember what happened to one of the characters and I’ll get so sad, because I relate now to the character even more as a human. Yes, it is a graphic novel and there are dragons, and there is different creatures and magic and mysticism and all of that, but the experiences are real.
That’s another thing that because the story took so long, a lot of the second hand feelings that I hadn’t experienced when I wrote the story in the beginning, with time I did feel them for real. When somebody in the book loses a brother, I go back, and I dig into feelings that I felt when I lost one of my brothers.
You say it’s inspired by true events, can you elaborate a little bit?
Let’s take it this way. There is a very important thing in the plot where somebody just decides to go against the system that he was born into. If he does he will lose everything, any family ties and all of this. It sounds very familiar. Also at another point it becomes very easy to go against code of ethics, or morals to solve a lot of problems. The challenge here is to hold onto our morals and ethics despite the difficulties. These battles that happen in all of us, standing up against our fear when courage is so difficult.
Some people sometimes will judge or ridicule a certain person, because of his size, because of his colour, his religion, his background or whatever. In the story we find that in certain cases this is a mistake, because it is very dangerous when we underestimate something that might come back and prove us wrong. I like stories of people who succeed against all odds, regardless of who that person is.
I also like stories that have a lot of hope in them. Hope is the most important thing in life. We lose hope, we die. After this book series I have another story, which is very much about the hope of a very poor boy who lived in the pre-oil era. At the time I will explain more, but it’s all about hope. I faced this myself as a freelancer, whether as an art consultant or a concept designer. Sometimes when the market is bad you still keep hope that something will happen. It always happens, and I always tell my wife, “It’s nice that we always land on our feet. No matter how bad it gets, it always ends up good in the end.”
Are there any particular messages that you wanted to convey in your book?
There is a lot of things. the most important thing that I put in the book is everybody in society is useful. Everybody, we cannot look at somebody with a certain disability and think that they are a burden, or will make things difficult or so forth. I made that very prominent throughout the entire series. Every … There is always loyalty and trust, and hope.
It seem important for you to stress that nobody is too insignificant or too useless? Why is that?
It’s very important to me,… I’ve gone through different phases in my life. It’s very important to tell the world which now is in a lot of pain, where neighborhoods are being torn apart by this or that idiot. Healthy people are hurting weak people. Rich people are looking down on poorer ones. All you need to do is just go through social media or the news for five seconds, and you are bombarded by hatred, whether it’s racial tension or religious tension or little children drowning to death, escaping wars, and things like that.
We need to reinforce the world with positive messaging. Even if it’s packaged in a war riddled graphic novel. I heard and I’m not sure, that the UAE is the country with the most nationalities living in it in the world. Racism is illegal. You’ll never hear somebody yelling at somebody by their colour or their nationality or their religion, because we didn’t grow up that way, and also you can very easily go to jail for any of that, which is good. I don’t say that because we are afraid of going to jail we don’t do it, but it is no longer part of us.
Can you tell me a little bit about your family story, and how they ended up being part of building this country or this young nation today.
It’s very fortunate that my father was one of the early lawyers actually, who was here at the time of establishment. When the country was very young, it was very important that all the educated people took on a certain role. That was one of the roles that my father had that he was a legal assistant to the late president Sheikh Zayed. There was a lot of laws that had been established that my father had rewritten. It was very … It was nice to be here at the brink of the nation.
Do you remember a bit of it or did your father tell you a lot of stories about this period?
Not as much but we experienced it ourselves. I remember I used to work out the front door and walk straight into the Corniche. There were no barriers, there was a one way road going that way and another one going that way. Hamdan street was one road. The Abu Dhabi-Al Ain highway was one road, and it was always dangerous to travel, because there was no fences on the sides. Camels roamed the streets freely, and there was a lot of car accidents back then. It was nice, we would jump into the corniche … There was coral reef down there. We would pick up oysters, and look for pearls, just for fun. It was great.
Were people talking a lot about how the country was unfolding, were there a lot of debates?
I was very young, but it was exactly like it is now. Constant change. The late Sheikh Zayed, he had a mission, and he, everything was against him, everybody was telling him, this will never happen. The good thing is that, every time somebody told him that this would not happen, he would do it. That’s the thing. We always lived in constant change. Very quickly we saw roads come up, and then lampposts, and then the country was full of roundabouts, and then the roundabouts went and became intersections. Then fences between the people and the corniche came up. It was always like that. The headlines were always exciting. Now when I see the old headlines and I remember that time, and it was very exciting. I kind of miss the old Abu Dhabi.
I was just about to ask you, do you miss this period?
Yes I do. People worked, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, only Friday was off. They worked from the morning until 1:30. Then from 1:30 until 5:00 the streets were empty. Nobody was on the streets. You would go, you would take the Abu Dhabi Dubai highway for example, and the roads were empty. It was a great period.
What do you miss most from that period actually?
I miss the quiet. I think I still had the small village mentality. And it was very quiet. It was very solemn. It was just a very relaxing … Think of it this way. I was born in 1967, and the union happened in 1972. You can imagine how young the country was. It was nice. Everything was new, everything. Then we first got our passports. I don’t know how to explain it.
Focused on the future, on building your own new country …
Yes, there was hope of this nation that we see today. When other nations were ahead of us they were seeing how we are still behind. But very quickly Sheikh Zayed, and then later on his children, our leaders today, proved everybody wrong. Not only to the neighboring countries, but to the entire world. They can’t now make fun of us because we are behind, because now we are ahead.
You grew up in Abu Dhabi?
So your father was a lawyer and even participated in shaping the country. What do you remember most from him as a father? I know he passed away quite early…
My father was very open minded. His brain was much younger than his age I believe. He saw the passion, he saw that I loved art and all of this. A lot of times, I remember until now when he’d come home, and he’d bring me plasticine, modelling clay. Then some days he’d come and bring me a pack of water colors, and things like that. He knew that that’s what we tell parents to do now. he saw that I had the love for creating things.
He wasn’t trying to make you a lawyer.
No, he wasn’t. Thank God. Although when I was in the states, one of the professors when I was taking business law, he tried to convince me that I would be a better lawyer than an artist. I didn’t listen to him either.
But Your father sensed that it was important to you. (maybe re-record)
He sensed that, and even later on as the country developed and stuff, he made a rule with me that every Wednesday he will take me to buy magazines and stuff about computers and art, and things like that. Yes, he definitely watered the seed. He ruined everything up when he didn’t let me go and study art in college, but it’s okay, I forgive him.
I think the same way that he did now.
For your children?
Yes. I think that I would really be happy if they don’t try to be artists.
They really have to find something, a way easier to make money. Happiness is fine, but happiness in utopia is good, but happiness in the real world needs money. The older they get the more they will notice that money pays for medicine, it pays for houses and for cars and for school, and for electricity and all of this. Passion is great, being happy a t what you do is good. You’ll be happier if you get paid for it too. This is the thing, being an artist today is not as easy as it was when I started back then.
When I did start back then it was very hard. Now it is more competitive, people are paying much less for art, for local art, or they are paying much less for art in the UAE. There is a big migration of European and American, and western and asian art that is coming in competing with the local market. I would hope that they would be a lawyer, or a doctor, and do art and passion on the side.
How many children do you have and have they developed a passion for arts as well – in spite of your wise wishes?
I have five children. My oldest is Nabil, and he also writes fantasy. We never work together. He has his own kind of group. He’s 27, and I have Leila is the second oldest, and there is Dana, and then there is Sultan, and there Salama. They all have a mix between writing literature and art, and that’s-
How many siblings, brothers and sisters do you have?
I was the youngest in 11.
It’s an interesting position to be in, you must have been the spoiled one.
The spoiled one when parents were alive, and then bullied one when parents are dead.
Are there any regrets that you have in life, that if you could change it you would do it differently?
I wish I started The Armagondas younger. I don’t have any regrets. I think things happen when they happen, because that’s when they are supposed to happen. I don’t have any regrets in life. I have a lot more stories to tell, and I’m just deciding whether I should put them out now in parallel with The Armagondas, or whether I should wait until the entire series is out.
Now last question, What are your plans or your dreams for the future? Do you have anything in mind that you want to do and you haven’t done yet?
The major plan that I have is that the book will become either a TV series or a movie. I’m working on the initial steps of that. The next few months will be investing time in getting appointments to meet either locally or internationally with film studios in that regard.
Another thing is that the main reason for self publishing the book is to send it out to publishers and literary agents, because I tried the normal way, but they tell you that send a prologue or the first three chapters, or whatever to an agent or a publishers, and then they look into it, and then they’ll either reject you, or they’ll tell you no, or whatever. I thought, you know what? I’m going to publish it anyway, I will not, that’s the stubborn me coming out again. I don’t care if an agent picks it up, or a publisher picks it up or whatever. I’ll do it myself anyway, if an agent comes along, fine. What I’ll do is I’ll send it out to all different agents and stuff. Already got my 12 or 14 rejections, which is good. I’m rejected-
It’s a good average…
It’s a good average. It’s two more rejections than J.K Rowling got when she pitched for Harry Porter.
So there is hope.
So there still is hope. There are plans to take the book to the Frankfurt Book Fair. Also to maybe to the Sharjah Book Fair, and then I’m also looking at the London Book Fair. There is another book fair in France. I forgot the name, and also there is one in Australia that I’m looking at. I’m gonna spend the next few years just traveling, like a traveling book salesman. That’s the major plan.
And when are we going to see the second volume of the Armagondas ?
I’m hoping, fingers crossed, if I find enough support of the financial type. I’m planning to launch The Armagondas volume one and volume two, at the Frankfurt Book Fair. This is my plan and my dream that I do get the funding to launch, to have a worldwide launch of The Armagondas in October at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Have you already written all the six volumes ? Are they all ready for publishing?
Yes. All of them are written, all of them have been edited, and they are ready to go.
Thank you very much, Jalal Luqman, for being on the show and sharing this moment with us.