What do you get when you combine mystical Arabic tattoo designs with a double passion to change the world? A stunning line of jewellery and an entire company focused on promoting ethical and sustainable business practices, of course. Well, at least that’s what happens when you put American-Bahraini artist Karima Sharabi and Bahraini creative director Noora Al Zain together.
The pair were fortuitously brought together when Noora spotted Karima’s unusual tattoo designs online and they soon discovered a shared understanding of humanity. This led them to setting up their brand new joint venture, The Generous Light Co., a parent company. Under this banner, the ladies aim to collaborate with other artists in Bahrain and around the world, while also working with other ethical businesses, ultimately helping them develop talented individuals and communities, and change negative world perceptions of the Middle East. No easy feat.
Just as every epic journey begins with a single step, the path to achieving these incredible ambitions has started with beautifully designed 24-karat gold-plated jewellery. Now known as the ‘Chamkana’ line, which translates to ‘radiate’ in Hindi, it is the first ever collaboration for Karima and Noora, and The Generous Light Co., but it certainly won’t be the last. Here, we catch up with these two determined and individualistic ladies to find out more about this unique, homegrown business and their ambitions for the future.
Where did the inspiration for The Generous Light Co. come from originally?
Noora Al Zain: The idea for The Generous Light Co. sprouted as Karima and I started working together in making her tattoo designs into jewellery for Al Zain. Al Zain often collaborates with different designers, but because Karima and I have so much in common we didn’t want to stop with one collection. We wanted to do more. I have a lot of experience working with my family at Al Zain and I’ve learned a lot about the possibilities and opportunities in business and believe in the ease with which a business can grow if there is a cohesive and supportive partnership. The idea for the company’s mission, to grow a community based on different artists and cultures, came from the passion that Karima and I both have for humanity and the understanding that we are all growing, learning and evolving together. We believe that the company would work as an inspiration for people to focus on the positive aspects of life.
Karima Sharabi: I design tattoos with Arabic words formed into shapes that are often very symbolic and spiritual. My style is not defined as calligraphy, because it doesn’t follow traditional calligraphic rules, so I call it ‘mystical Arabic writing’. Noora saw my work and commissioned a design from me and then said ‘it would make great jewellery’.
As we began working together, we realised how much we have in common and that our spiritual, as well as aesthetic values, are so alike. We really view the world in the same way. We had both always been searching for a way to make a difference and have a positive effect on peoples’ lives and the community, while doing something that we both love. I believe there are no coincidences in life and our meeting, and the development of our company, unfolded so perfectly and naturally, as if it was all meant to be.
Chamkana doesn’t end with jewellery though, does it?
NAZ: As we started working together, the idea for Chamkana kept growing into manufacturing other products apart from the jewellery like T-shirts, mugs and the temporary gold tattoos that are in fashion now. I really believe her designs for Chamkana can develop into even more products.
What is the ultimate aim of The Generous Light Co.?
NAZ: To create a platform for like-minded people to connect, share diverse beliefs and cultures, to impact and enhance the way people think, as well as changing the international perception of the Middle East.
KS: We want it to be a platform for people who have similar ideals and beliefs to be able to express themselves and make a living from what they do. The Generous Light Company is the mother brand and under that there will be sub-brands in collaboration with different artists and designers from Bahrain, and then eventually other countries in the Middle East, and hopefully around the world.
Why do you think this concept will work in Bahrain particularly?
NAZ: I believe that this concept will start off perfectly in Bahrain as many people here are quite liberal and open-minded. There are many distinct individuals that have amazing skills and ideas and they may not know how to turn them into a business. To be able to help people here, and around the world, is one of my biggest passions in life.
KS: Bahrain has a very rich artistic and spiritual heritage. The people here are receptive to diverse ideas and beliefs, and there is still a lot of room for us to grow. There is so much undiscovered talent and artistry in Bahrain and we want the world to see it. We also believe that art really promotes tolerance and connection through a peaceful means of expression and dialogue and we want The Generous Light Co. to be a way for artists to present their work on a large scale through merchandise and marketing. We will create an artistic platform to encourage artists to pursue their passion and make a living from what they love to do.
You’re interested in running a sustainable and ethical business practice. Why is this so important to you both?
KS: Both Noora and I realise the impact of positive energy and the law of attraction. We believe the more you give, the more you will receive; the more you care about the environment and your company’s impact on society and the future, the more successful you will be not just in terms of material gain but also in terms of spiritual satisfaction and fulfillment. The idea of interconnectedness and inclusion – that we are all in it together – is an integral part of our business. It is also important to give back to the people around you so as to improve life in the community as a whole.
NAZ: With all that’s happening in the world today, we feel it’s necessary to have these working ethics set from the start, to always remember the reason for starting the business. It’s important for us to represent our personal core values of unity, peace, tolerance and respect for the environment, and for the community, and we hope that will always shine through The Generous Light Co.
What types of companies and individuals are you looking to work with in the future?
NAZ: We hope to work with individuals and businesses that have values similar to ours. We will approach companies and individuals who promote ethical, fair and sustainable business practice, and who are also creative and passionate and have a deep and meaningful message to share.
How do your individual skills complement each other in this partnership?
NAZ: My background in branding, business and manufacturing really helped us in setting up the company, plus we had massive support from Al Zain during the process. I really believe that to accomplish anything in life you have to be dedicated, hardworking and creative in developing your ideas. The ideas are there and taking the steps towards them is what really makes your vision a reality.
KS: Although both Noora and I are very creative, I feel my strength is definitely in the artistic and philosophical side of the business. I also studied Political Science and my extensive knowledge of different societies, religions and philosophies has inspired us to set a mission to find the beauty in and connect seemingly diverse beliefs and cultures.
Karima, what inspired you to create the specific pieces that are now part of the Chamkana jewellery line?
KS: A lot of the words and concepts I have used are inspired by mysticism and eastern spirituality, by the poetry and concepts of the Sufi masters like Hafiz and Rumi and also the words of Khalil Gibran.
A customer will give me a word or phrase in Arabic and ask me to mold it into a symbol that holds significance and meaning for them, something they can have etched on their body to forever remind them of their personal growth, of their strength or of the beauty in their life. I shaped the Arabic word for ‘unity’, for example, into the outline of a bicycle because within a bicycle there are many different parts working together as one.
Where can people buy items from the Chamkana line from now?
NAZ: You can buy our products at our online store www.thegenerouslightco.com. We will also be selling items in select boutiques in Bahrain and around the Middle East.
Our products will be available in Mimosa in Al A’ali Shopping Complex and Seef Mall starting this March.
What does the future hold for this business?
KS: I really feel The Generous Light Co. is going to inspire people in our part of the world to think differently about business and how it can include and benefit many different segments of the community. Because there is also a very strong philosophy and mission behind the Chamkana line, and ultimately The Generous Light Co., we know it’s not just going to be about the products but about a way of life and a new way of thinking.
Visit www.thegenerouslightco.com for the online shop and more information about the company.