Image © Natalie Naccache
"I was story-hunting around the Middle East and wanted to document something fresh and exciting that wasn’t centred around the political revolutions in the region," says the Beirut-based photojournalist Natalie Naccache. "As much as these events are important, I wanted to take a deeper look into how young people in the Middle East are growing up, who they look up to, and what moulds their beliefs."
In a globalised world, it has become "much easier than before to consume Western products, therefore an increasing number of Arab parents worry that their children are getting too Westernised. This creates a demand for businesses that adapt Westernised products to their values, and it has been taking place across the Middle East – in television programmes, hip-hop music, comic books and ‘Arabised’ Barbie dolls called Fulla dolls."
A Fulla doll is, in essence, a Barbie doll that is "loving, caring, honest, and respecting of her mother and father”, say the doll’s creators. Unsurprisingly, adds Naccache, “there has been an increase in sales of Fulla dolls in Cairo, after the Muslim Brotherhood came into power". The dolls are also selling well in Saudi Arabia, where they come dressed in a black abaya and headscarf.
Naccache’s project is still a work in progress, she explains. "With 60 percent of the Arab world under the age of 30, my aim is to focus on young Arabs and how this increasing cultural hybridisation affects the way they grow up."
The young photojournalist has already travelled to Kuwait to document The 99 phenomenon, a series of comic books that offers "new role models – superheroes born of Middle East history and Islamic archetypes that possess values shared by the entire world".
Now Naccache is looking to get greater access within the families that are buying and promoting these products. "Such access was difficult in Kuwait,” she says. “Parents prefer that I meet their children outside of the house, so I often had to negotiate to be allowed in their ‘private’ spaces. I want to spend time with girls aged five to 12, photographing their daily domestic lives."
In the meantime, Naccache plans to document Lebanese pop singers who mix Arab and Western themes together in their lyrics with Hollywood-style music videos. "Access is a lot more relaxed at the moment," she says.
All images © Natalie Naccache
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