Deena Mohamed is a 24 year old graphic designer and illustrator from Egypt. In 2013 she gained some renown for her webcomic Qahera, which quickly spread via social media and was later reported on by various news outlets, such as BBC News. Since then she has not been idle; along with her graphic design work, she is updating Qahera again after a hiatus and has published an award-winning graphic novel, the first in a trilogy.
Her web comic Qahera, an ongoing project, features a hijabi superhero and illustrates the struggles Muslim women face on a day-today basis. The comic is feminist from a specifically Muslim perspective and touches on various subjects such as misogyny, street harassment and Islamophobia. Though first published in English only, it is now available in both English and Arabic. The reason for this is simple, Deena told us:
“Qahera was originally posted online as a webcomic on tumblr, where most of my following was English-speaking, and where the formatting wasn’t (and STILL isn’t) kind to Arabic. So I always posted in English on tumblr, which naturally led to Qahera being in English. I only started translating the comic when I started making more and more Egypt-specific comics, and felt like Egyptians needed to read it too.”
Her newest project, ‘Shubeik Lubeik’ (roughly translated as abracadabra), is a graphic novel trilogy, the first of which has won the award for Best Printed Graphic Novel and the Grand Prize at the CairoComix Festival. It is an urban fantasy set in modern day Egypt, wherein wishes are commodities to be sold and bought. The first part has been published in Arabic, and the entire trilogy is set to be translated into English in 2021.
Shubeik Lubeik was created for an Egyptian audience and the inspiration for it is a common sight in her hometown Cairo: the many colorful koshks, aka little cornerstore kiosks.
“They interest me because they’re literally everywhere, and because they’re always full to the brim with different chips and sodas they’re very colorful little spots in otherwise relatively dusty/monochrome Cairo.
But it’s also kind of foreboding, because while they are these small oases for snacks and cigarettes, they’re basically just covered in brands. Do you know that saying about ‘You can’t find medicine everywhere, but you can get a Coca-Cola anywhere?’ That’s very Egypt. And these kiosks are symptoms of that. So they fascinate me a little bit. I just wanted to do something with a magic kiosk, and that led to a kiosk that sells wishes, which led to the rest of the graphic novels.”
For now, Deena is focused on finishing her graphic novels and updating Qahera, but will undoubtedly surprise us with more amazing work in the future!