painting her art through motherhood – Anne-Laurie Roy & Kids of Arabia

One thing I do love and miss about my former job is that I get to see friends around the world, that made my business travel more human and not just about store openings, negotiations and staff clinics. I enjoyed going to Dubai, it’s not that type of holiday I would do because I prefer walking miles in the middle of nowhere and experiencing new things, however when it comes to business travel, the more civilised the better especially for women if you travel alone. 5 hours flight and everything there is impeccable. So when I am in another city, I always love to see my personal friends and experience local life.

Anne Laurie had her 3rd baby when we finally met up, I visited her house and we also met again in a juice bar where in Dubai it felt so foreign, we caught up on life and kids, and just nice conversations that most of us probably didn’t have much time for during any business trips.

I’ve been admiring her painting and her project – Kids of Arabia and finally I got to speak to her, see our conversation below.

KF: When we met, you were at your very early twenties and since then your life has been mostly aboard from Europe, please share the journey of what is it like to be an expat?

AL: When we met, I was just out of art school and had started working in the sales team at Anya Hindmarch. Being young and thirsty for adventure, I didn’t even think twice about leaving it all to go to Mozambique where my boyfriend had been offered a job. We were supposed to go away for 1 year, but ended up staying there for 6 years before moving to Dubai 11 years ago!I now know that it was a blessing to be offered this opportunity at such a young age, as I didn’t have time to settle into a career before becoming an expat and it made leaving my job that much easier.I think it also helped that I did not have a fixed career plan. I moved to Mozambique with an open mind, ready to welcome any opportunity that came my way. Being an artist also helps a great deal as Art goes everywhere with me. Making my art challenges me, gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me company (the first few months of being in a new country can be very lonely!).

AL with her family – 5 in a van. source via ALR

KF: When did you launch Kids of Arabia and any inspiration behind this project initially? What is Kids of Arabia?

AL: In Mozambique, I had started adding photographic portraits to my paintings. Inspired by my years at Anya, I knew that bespoke was definitely the way to go, so I started offering an art portrait experience (I would take a photo of the person and add paint around it). It was very popular but I found it challenging at times for the costumer to understand my vision and vice versa. In 2017, I met a digital artist (Azaide) and suggested to her that we partnered up and created a digital version of my art portraits. This is when we started Kids of Arabia. Our product offer is very simple : the costumer books a photoshoot with me, they then choose one of our digital painting to use as a background to their photo, we pair the two digitally and get it printed on a canvas.  Initially, we focused on children’s portraits (hence the name), but quickly expended to family portraits.

KF: During your time being an expat’s wife, how did you find your own identity or you were happy being a mom during that time?  Please share.

AL: Mozambique was a breeze. We were young and most people we knew worked for NGOs and in a lot of cases, the ‘trailing spouses’ were the men (whom everyone admired for this obviously).Whislt there, I started teaching at the French school part time. And once I settled, creative opportunities came my way (exhibitions, illustrations for social campaigns, art workshop with NGOs etc).The decision to become parents came very naturally (again, I think we benefited from being young) and I never felt judged or looked down for being a stay at home/ work from home mum. Dubai was another story…there is actually a name for trailing spouses here, and it is never said in a kind way. Expats value your worth on your job title, and at first, I felt like I had to shove my art school diploma in people’s face in order to be taken seriously. Thankfully, this changed in recent years and we now have a vibrant community of creatives. 

KF: How many countries have you lived? Any scene or story you’ve seen that is a life lesson that you can share with us? 

AL: I spent my childhood in France, my teenage years in London, my twenties in Mozambique and my thirties in Dubai. We were supposed to go and spend our forties in Cape Town, but so far Covid has delayed our move.I always say that our 6 years in Mozambique were the biggest life lesson I received. It changed us and shaped us. Mostly it made us realise the privileges that we took for granted (access to education, safety, health and a passport that makes most countries welcome you with open arms). It was all very humbling. One of my last project there was to help a group of expat women set up and develop a workshop for underprivileged HIV positive women to make handbags with recycled advertising banners. To this day, this is one of my favourite project.   

KF: What is your vision for your project kids of Arabia and any more collaboration coming up? 

AL: We would love for the project to continue after I move to South Africa. I would like to develop it there and can work remotely with Azaide. Sometimes, we dream of developing it on a bigger scale and internationally, but that would entail accepting digital photos taken by the costumers rather than myself…and I am not sure that I am willing to let go completely off the art direction yet…In the meantime, whenever we get an idea, we launch new projects. We collaborated on a fine art series called ‘Sandpit Swag’ in 2018. Last year, we launched ‘Pick-n-mix’ which mixes photographs of street signs with digital paintings.mAnd we also have a small second hand clothing range ‘Straight Outta Satwa’, customising denim jackets from second hand shops in Satwa (a magical area in Dubai where you can find tailors and haberdashery and fabric shops amongst other things).

KF: What do you miss France the most when you are in Middle East or Africa? And vice versa, once you are in Europe, what do miss your life in the Middle East or Africa?

AL: Probably my family. Or rather the proximity to my family. This feeling has definitely been exhacerbated by the whole covid crisis.And when I am in France, I miss being in my own home and my routine the most (I also miss coffee- and have yet to find a decent flat white in Paris). 

KF: After living in so many places, what is your favourite family meal that you can make in 30 mins, could you share?

AL: Unfortunately, my creativity doesn’t translate well to the kitchen…and our family meals are quite repetitive…But I can share two snacks that we make on a weekly basis and that have been inspites by living in Mozambique and Dubai. The first one is a ‘Tosta Mista’. It is basically a grilled cheese and ham sandwich traditionally eaten with your coffee for a late breakfast. You just need bread, ham, gouda cheese, (lots of ) butter and a hot press. Make it fancy with artisan bread and different cheese/hams.

The second one is a middle east staple and perfect for lunchboxes: Hummus. You just need chickpeas, tahini (or unsweetened peanut butter if sesame past isn’t available), lemon, garlic, olive oil, pepper. Blitz everything together and voila! Delicious and nutritious with carrot and cucumber sticks. You can also add an ingredient to it to make it different: coriander/roasted red peppers/ olives etc) or even  replace the chickpeas with beetroot for pink hummus (always popular with the kiddos).  

Follow Anne-Laure Roy and her project kids of Arabia through instagram Anne-Laure Roy and Kids Of Arabia

Enjoy my interview and story? Please follow my instagram for more updates and news @kfyangoconnor. See you in the virtual world!


我偶爾懷念我以前的工作,因為工作我飛了很多的國家也認識了世界各地的朋友,這使我的商務旅行變得更加人性化,而不僅僅是商店開業,談判和員工培訓。 我很喜歡去迪拜商務旅行,商務旅行中,越文明的地方就越好,尤其是對於獨自商務旅行的女性,安全還是要注意 。從倫敦 5個小時的飛行,到達之後一切都無可挑剔,非常富麗輝煌,雖然不是我會選擇度假的城市但是商務旅行來說杜拜是一個很舒服的工作地方。當我在另一個城市時,我總是喜歡與自己的朋友見面並體驗當地生活。

當我們見面時,安妮·勞裡(Anne Laurie)有了她的第3個孩子,我參觀了她在杜拜的房子,我們在當地的果汁吧見面,我們聊了生活和孩子,在出差期間沒有太多時間所以可以見自己的朋友是一件非常愉快的事。

我一直很欣賞AL的畫和她的project- Kids of Arabia阿拉伯之子,請看下面的我們的訪談。

KF:當我們見面時,您才20歲,而那時您的生活大多來自歐洲,請分享一下成為Expat 太太的經歷吧?

AL:當我們見面時,我剛剛離開美術學校,開始在Anya Hindmarch的銷售團隊工作。 我年輕而渴求冒險,我沒有三思而後行就去莫桑比克找我的男朋友找工作。 我們本該走了一年,但最終在那呆了6年,然後才11年前移居迪拜。我現在知道能在這麼小的年齡得到這個機會真是一件幸事,因為我沒有 在成為外國人之前有足夠的時間安頓下來,這使我的工作變得容易得多。我認為這也有助於我沒有固定的職業計劃。 我以開放的心態搬到莫桑比克,隨時準備迎接我所遇到的任何機會。 當藝術與我同行時,成為一名藝術家也有很大幫助。 使我的藝術挑戰我,給我一種目標感並使我與人保持聯繫(在一個新國家的頭幾個月可能很寂寞!)。

KF:您是何時啟動“阿拉伯之子”的,最初是從什麼項目獲得靈感的? 什麼是Kids of Arabia?

AL:在莫桑比克,我開始在我的畫中添加攝影肖像。 受到在安雅(Anya)工作的啟發,我知道定制絕對是要走的路,所以我開始提供藝術人像體驗(我會拍攝人物照片並在上面加上顏料)。 它非常受歡迎,但我發現客戶有時很難理解我的願景,反之亦然。 2017年,我遇到了一位數位藝術家(Azaide),並向她建議我們合作並創建了我的藝術肖像的數位版本。 這是我們啟動阿拉伯之子的時候。 我們的產品報價非常簡單:客戶與我一起拍攝照片,然後他們選擇我們的一幅數字油畫作為照片的背景,我們將兩者進行配對並打印在畫布上。 最初,我們專注於兒童畫像(因此得名),但很快就發展為全家福。

KF: 在您是Expat 的妻子期間,您是如何找到自己的身份的?或者您很高興在這段時間內成為母親? 請分享。

AL: 莫桑比克輕而易舉。 我們還很年輕,我們認識的大多數人都是為非政府組織工作的,在很多情況下,“拖尾配偶”是男人(顯然每個人對此都很欽佩)。在那裡,我開始在法國學校兼職任教。 一旦我安頓下來,創造的機會就來了(展覽,社交活動的插圖,與非政府組織的藝術研討會等)。成為父母的決定很自然(再次,我認為我們從年輕時就受益了),我從來沒有感到被評判或 因在家中待在家裡/媽媽而低頭。 迪拜是另一回事…這裡實際上有一個隨行配偶的名字,但從來沒有用一種友好的方式說過。 外籍人士會以自己的職位上的身價來評估自己的價值。起初,

我覺得我必須將我的藝術學校文憑推向別人的臉,才能受到重視。 值得慶幸的是,近年來情況有所改變,我們現在擁有一個充滿活力的創意社區。

KF: 您住過幾個國家? 您看到的任何場景或故事都是可以與我們分享的人生課程嗎?

AL: 我在法國度過了童年,在倫敦度過了少年時代,在莫桑比克度過了二十多歲,在迪拜度過了三十歲。 我們原本應該去開普敦四十多歲,但是到目前為止,科維德推遲了我們的行動。我總是說,我們在莫桑比克的六年是我收到的最大的人生教訓。 它改變了我們,塑造了我們。 通常,這使我們意識到了我們理所當然的特權(獲得教育,安全,健康和護照,這使大多數國家張開雙臂歡迎您)。 一切都很謙卑。 我的最後一個項目是幫助一群外籍婦女成立和舉辦一個工作坊,為弱勢的HIV陽性婦女製作帶有可回收廣告橫幅的手袋。 到目前為止,這是我最喜歡的project之一。

KF: 您對Kids of Arabia的看法是什麼,接下來是否會有更多合作?

AL: 我希望在我搬到南非後繼續這個project。 我想在那裡開發它,並且可以與Azaide進行遠程合作。 有時,我們夢想著在更大範圍和國際範圍內進行開發,但這將需要接受服裝製作者而非我自己拍攝的數碼照片……而且我不確定我是否願意完全擺脫藝術指導。 ..同時,只要有想法,我們就會啟動新項目。 我們在2018年合作開發了一個名為“ Sandpit Swag”的美術系列。去年,我們推出了“ Pick-n-mix”,將路牌的照片與數字油畫混合在一起。我們還擁有小型二手服裝系列“ Straight Outta” Satwa’,在Satwa(迪拜的一個神奇地區,您可以在其中找到裁縫店,服飾店和布料店等)二手商店裡定制牛仔夾克。

KF: 在中東或非洲時,您最想法國的是什麼? 反之亦然,一旦您來到歐洲,會在中東或非洲懷念您的生活嗎?

AL: 可能是我的家人。 或者更接近我的家人。 整個共生危機無疑消除了這種感覺。


KF: 在那麼多地方生活後,您可以在30分鐘內吃什麼最喜歡的家庭餐,您可以分享嗎?

AL: 不幸的是,我的創造力並不能很好地轉化為廚房…而且我們的家庭飲食相當重複…但是我可以分享我們每週做的兩種零食,這些零食在生活中會受到感染在莫桑比克和迪拜。第一個是“ Tosta Mista”。它基本上是一種烤奶酪和火腿三明治,通常與您的咖啡一起吃,以作為早餐。您只需要麵包,火腿,荷蘭奶酪,(很多)黃油和熱壓機。可以搭配手工麵包和不同的奶酪/火腿。


Enjoy my interview and story? Please follow my instagram for more updates and news @kfyangoconnor. See you in the virtual world!

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