My name is Ayanoor Al Kawafi and I’m from Benghazi, Libya. My dream since I was a child was to create a company that makes cartoons with a Libyan flavour. The aim of the cartoons would be to raise the issues that the Libyan woman faces in a satirical manner, especially in our conservative society that rejects the presence of women in many fields and confines women’s lives to a specific angle.
My journey was quite difficult. I used to draw when I would young but later gave it up and followed a different field of study. However, I didn’t give up on the idea and after graduating I tried to find a job opportunity but unfortunately didn’t succeed. In 2011-2012 I returned to my hobby as a result of the revolution and the affect that these events had on me. My drawings were political at that time but I had to stop drawing due to pressure from my family. I then turned towards plastic art. I tried to prove myself and in fact I had some successful artistic experiences but my family wasn’t accepting the idea of art in itself.
I returned to looking for a job with my degree but I I couldn’t find any opportunity in my way. My dream was growing and I felt that this was my fate especially because of my ability to turn hard situations into comical ones. I loved seeing my drawings move in front of me and speak about my reality and the reality of many Libyan girls as we dont have the freedom of choice. I then thought of creating a comedy show but this came with hardships and many issues. The issues of where I was going to film and how I would appear was scary enough, so I thought of using a doll. I designed a doll that resembles me and I created an irritating character and partner for her. The show did indeed succeed and I was able to share my ideas and my voice from a simple studio with the most limited abilities. I gained my knowledge through my own individual efforts. I was working on the show entirely on my own, from acting, to directing, to the chroma key work. I learnt how to make a montage through youtube and I used to record using my phone and a selfie stick.
Unfortunately, due to the circumstances and the war that Benghazi was going through, the situation affected me a lot. I changed the aim of the show a little bit for a temporary period. I began to discuss societal issues in general, and even sensitive topics such as the video showing a Libyan woman being gang-raped by local militiamen which I was able to address in a light comical way. The show gained attention and I was invited to speak on the channel Libya HD where my show was broadcasted during Ramadan.
I hoped to receive a scholarship to allow me to travel and learn about the cartoon industry. I know its a big world and it needs a team, but in order for me to be a part of a team, I need to learn about animation, design, programs, etc. I decided to return to drawing in order to gain some financial reward, but our society treats art as something worthless. I then tweeted about my need for a space to share my work. I created the hashtag #Iwantmychance and #supportayanour and I shared all my work and the stages of my journey. A company owner saw my request and offered me a challenge to draw something about entrepreneurship and to get 1000 retweets.
I accepted the challenge and people's interaction was amazing. They all wanted to help me even though I wasn’t active on Twitter and didn’t have many followers. What was weird was that maybe only 10% of the people actually focused on the drawing and its meaning. I was criticised for focusing on women's role and accused of being sexist. They perceive entrepreneurship as being male oriented, however for me, entrepreneurship is any work that leads to financial rewards, including Libyan women who make and sell cookies and cakes. This is my understanding of entrepeunership.
I won the challenge, but I will continue to support women with my art, and I will continue to search for opportunities that support my dream.