“Latifa is an animated representation of Saudi women and their resilience, independence…” – HH Prince Fahad Al Saud on creating Saudi’s first superwoman comic
Prince Fahad Al Saud has cultured a new generation of digitally savvy women in Saudi Arabia, starting with Facebook in arabic followed by the Saudi Girls Revolution. Here Buro’s columnist Hatem Alakeel speaks exclusively to the visionary…
HH Prince Fahad Al Saud is a gem, with his own thoughts, initiatives and a talent that positions him as the Saudi George Lucas of our time. He is the ultimate millennial, a Saudi role model and everything he has done will go down in history. Prince Fahad is opening unparalleled doors and creating new channels for the younger generation, empowering the youth, women in particular. Here Hatem Alakeel talks to the entrepreneur and creator of Saudi’s first superwomen comic…
Meet HH Prince Fahad Al Saud, a young, entrepreneurial futurist, who has truly changed the perception of, and been apart of the future of, Saudi Arabia’s women’s empowerment movement. As the Founder and CEO of Na3am.com @newarabmedia, Prince Fahad is not just changing perceptions but he’s revolutionising them. What’s more is he’s created the first Saudi female super hero comic, Latifa. Here, his vision and goals for women’s empowerment are evident and a direct result of the fact that women are still marginalised in our region. Latifa, a dominant character in the new comic book series, is a representation of just how powerful and heroic women can actually be. Welcome to Fahad’s world, a universe he has created lead by females protagonists.
It’s a pleasure to interview you Fahad! Tell us about your part in setting up Facebook in KSA?
It was actually Facebook Arabic, not specifically KSA, but Facebook for all Arabic-speaking countries. I was a part of a team that later became the Arabic department at Facebook, and here I was made the head of user operations. I was also the first native Arab to be in such a position within the company, after realising that Facebook could be used as a powerful tool in the region, not only in terms of communication but also as a curated platform to access global information, as well as, of course, business. Women too saw how they could now bypass limitations in the business world and society, creating content, products, new narratives, online stores and then promote it all globally. I thought, what if this was now provided in the Arabic language? How would it positively affect them and the community at large? English speakers are the top one per cent, so how do we get everybody else on board? That was basically the inspiration: the women of my region, young people, technology, creativity and business opportunities.
How online savvy is our region? Do you feel their knowledge is underestimated?
We’re not just savvy, we’re actually leaders of online consumption, social media and technology. By virtue of having access to these tools and also being a very young Middle East (over 70% are under the age of 35), we’re naturally attracted to, and dominate, the online space. This is proven through statistics in market penetration and how we also dominate smart phone use. All we need to do at this point is reference what’s going on, on the ground, on YouTube, on Instagram and so on.
Of course our knowledge is underestimated, as with all things really, when it comes to Arabs and Muslims. But we’re no longer victims of this. Young people, and I, throughout Saudi and the Arab world are making sure of that. People forget that historically we are leaders, of culture, of philosophy, medicine, art, politics, and now technology.
How does it feel to be this young and have so much impact on so many people? Do you feel a responsibility?
I don’t look at my age, I just concentrate on my purpose. Maybe my age is important to other people but to me its about how early I’ve recognised the privilege I have and utilise it as much as possible to bring about a positive difference, understanding the responsibilities I have to the whole world, as well as towards my community, my people, nation and region.
I know that I am fulfilling my purpose and that’s what matters most. The impact is just validation I suppose, that I’m on the right track.
I love the terminology “Bedouin Blade”, which is used in the comic Latifa. It seems to be a celebration of heritage and history yet in a very contemporary way that inspires children to reflect too. Is that also one of your goals?
The terminology here comes from our attempt to introduce our culture in our own creative way. It’s important to really address certain elements that shed light on the culture positively, by uniquely introducing a little bit of our heritage. It is definitely our goal to use this platform to share the colourfulness of who we are as a people. So yes, there will be many references and stories told which are inspired by our part of the world, to share with the rest of the world.
Loving the name Latifa, what an amazing character you have created. Why did you call her Latifa? Is she named after someone who is close to your heart?
Latifa wasn’t based on anyone, but rather on the concept of playing with labels. The name Latifa is always associated with compassion and/or kindness. With that you would think that perhaps Latifa is “compassionate” or “kind”, but actually she isn’t. Or perhaps she is? With other layers too! I believe we as humans are so much more than our name, or our label, and it’s really down to the reader to analyse Latifa’s multiple layers, as a daughter who loved her father, as a protector of her nation, as an Arab woman, as a violent killer seeking revenge, as a vigilante rescuing her community. There’s so much more to her than meets the eye.
She is an opportunity and a representation of a story where I wanted to highlight Arab women overall, and Saudi women in particular. Their resilience, their independence, their sense of leadership, the multi-faceted characters, a sense of community and how they stand up for their families, their justice. She is an animated representation of that in many ways… of the women I grew up with back home.
Although you are single handedly creating “gems” of Arabia with your own hands and thoughts, are there any other gems from Saudi, which you think the world doesn’t know about and that we need to shed light on?
Obviously there are a lot of gems and what we do with every story that we create is going to see different protagonists, whom are going to highlight different cultural and societal stories. This is what I am most excited about when it comes to my career; being able to have such a colourful variety of stories to tell, from a region which has yet to be given an opportunity to tell its story the right way.
What is style to you?
I think style is really a representation of one’s journey and mood. Of course, if clothing is how you choose to communicate and learn. Some people don’t make that choice, and hence have no style.
I am a visual learner and communicator, so my style comes as a result of my experiences, a way to communicate myself and really to just have fun. I am a child of comics and a world of superheroes, and that can come across in my style too. I often dress as if I’m a superhero, which is why I can sometimes be a little extreme in my style expression. I’m comfortable in costumes, elaborate designs and I experiment with a big imagination. Style for me is simply another platform to communicate one’s identity, however complex that may be.
Less is more or more is more?
How about, enough is enough? I tailor what’s right for me, which could be less for some, and more for others. It’s really down to personal comfort levels. Whatever you feel represents you and what you’re trying to communicate, that’s enough. That’s perfect, for you.