DEAD SEA — Buthaina Abu Bandoora graduated from university as a pharmacist in 1996, but long suspected that her true calling was a career in the arts.
“With all due respect to the profession of pharmacy, I have so much potential and I could not see that it was going to get me anywhere,” Abu Bandoora told The Jordan Times on Monday on the sidelines of the EuroMed Forum on Creative Industries and Society at the Dead Sea.
“The way I saw it, I was just like any other saleswoman in a supermarket.”
The mother of three daughters worked in a drugstore she owned until 2003, when she took a pivotal life decision and started a puppet show business.
“I expected to face some resistance from my family, but they were very supportive… I decided to take this step out of my conviction that this form of art is important in that it can influence the social behaviour of my children and their generation,” she said.
Abu Bandoora said she had no formal education in art or theatre, but rather learned her trade from reading books and browsing the Internet for instruction and ideas.
“I also started working with groups such as Save the Children, where artistic ideas are being adopted to bring positive change to local societies,” she said.
While Abu Bandoora remains committed to her artistic career, she acknowledged that financial and technical obstacles have always been a challenge, especially in a society where exploiting personal connections is often a more effective marketing strategy than producing quality work.
“Cultural creativity is abundant in our society but the problem is the mistrust of investors in the potential of this sector,” she said. “Without support, there is no sustainability of good work and creativity. We also have the problem of marketing.”
Yacoub Abu Ghoush is another example of a creative Jordanian who abandoned a traditional career path for the uncharted territory of making a living as an artist.
Abu Ghoush graduated from law school in 1999 but never worked as a practising lawyer, instead taking different jobs, including a stint as a journalist, before settling into a career as a musician and composer.
“At the moment my work is concentrated on documentary background music and music accompanying children’s shows. I hope to expand my production but it’s very challenging and needs lots of time and patience.
“Right now I am working on setting up my own recording studio and I hope to bring something new to this business,” he said at the forum. “I believe that art can be an important contributor to local development.”
Abu Ghoush said the Kingdom’s private sector had yet to take responsibility in supporting cultural producers, arguing that investors should focus not only on profits, but also on the social impact this sector can have in reshaping people’s minds.
Jordan’s legislative climate is also not conducive to creative industry, he added, remarking that authorities should consider how these industries promote the identity of the nation to the rest of the world.
“It has to be done in a way that makes people think and be more creative and not try to impose ideas on them. This way, people will be able to express themselves by different means and not only by marching in the streets or demonstrating,” he said.
Ihab Jariri, a participant from Ramallah who works for a local radio station and owns a TV studio, added that the outdated materials currently being taught in many art schools and universities hindered the development of creative professionals.
“This is a big problem, as postgraduate students are not ready to join the local market and still need more training,” he said.
Jariri said the two-day forum, which began on Sunday, was an opportunity to market his work to other stakeholders in the region.
“I learned so much from participants in this event. I shared ideas with them and listened to their experiences in overcoming challenges facing their work.”
Around 250 participants from Arab and European countries are taking part in the forum, which Al Rai Centre for Research (ARCR) organised for the first time in the Kingdom in partnership with the European Network of Cultural Centres, the British Council, the Goethe Institut, the Instituto Cervantes and the Institut Francais in Jordan.
The forum aims to highlight creative industries in Jordan and discuss the best means to promote and develop them and build an interactive connection between creative industries and end-users, according to organisers.