I sat down over coffee with poet and videographer, Mohammed Tariq Anis, to discuss his growth as a performance poet and his passion for capturing UAE’s spoken word scene on camera.
Dorian: How you got involved as a videographer and poet?
Mohammed: I was told from a very young age that I had a knack for expounding upon things and a weird extensive appreciation for details. In plain English, that meant I talked too much, but it also meant that I liked telling stories and that I appreciated how they were told. My involvement in videography began when my dad gifted me his camera; I liked what I filmed. As for poetry, I think, in a manner of speaking, everyone’s a poet. It’s simply a matter of choosing how far you want to be vocal about empathy and how eager you are in refining that.
Dorian: You are UAE-born but draw your lineage from Egypt. How has your Egyptian identity impacted your perspective on life?
Mohammed: This is a bit tricky for me to answer. Egypt is a wealth of unappreciated intellectual and historical heritage that I feel blessed to say that I can relate to, one way or the other. Egyptian teachers, politicians, thinkers, scientists; they’re everywhere. The man who composed the UAE’s national anthem was Mohammed Abdel Wahab, who is a national treasure in Egypt as a musical artist. I’m in love with that, but in a circle of other Egyptians, I tend to stand out as the odd one. I’ve been a very confused sponge for different cultures, Arabic and non-Arabic. You will never be able to tell where I am from, unless I put a great deal of effort in speaking my country’s dialect, and even then, I’d sound weird. I don’t think being an Egyptian has ever influenced my way of thinking, but it has undoubtedly drawn some rather interesting stereotypes and presumptions about me from other people.
Dorian: You were the first videographer for Rooftop Rhythms. Years later, you are now the most improved poet for the 2015-2016 season. Were you always a writer?
Mohammed: I had an unquenchable thirst to speak ‘the adult’s language’ when I was a child. My father, having crisscrossed Europe, lived in Sudan and wrote for prestigious papers here in the UAE and was the motivation of it all. I fell in love with language, and subsequently fell in love with writing. I started writing when I was twelve.
Dorian: What made you take the leap from capturing artists behind the camera to being a performer in front of the camera?
Mohammed: It made sense to me. I am an unpublished writer who is yet to realize a dream of having a book; I know I can tell a story well and not just with a camera. Why not give it a shot?
Dorian: To what would you attribute your significant growth as a performance artist?
Mohammed: The right dosage of stage freights, the unconditional love of the audience, and the honest feedback from my peers.
Dorian: You have recently started to create professional videos for artists like Sara Al Souqi, me and others. Why?
Mohammed: I was inspired by Derrick Brown’s “A Finger Two Dots Then Me”, which won the Cannes Festival. It gave me a whole perspective on what poetry could truly become. I never thought I’d get to shoot something in that scale until I heard Sara’s piece a second time over at the Fairmont. It simply didn’t feel fair that something so profound remained largely inaccessible. It had to be done. Sara took it a step further by introducing it to the Mosquers Film Festival over at Canada Edmonton. The feedback was overwhelmingly fulfilling. It was a niche, I realized, that was worth pursuing.
Dorian: Over the past few years, you have been the top archivist of the local poetry and spoken word scene in the UAE. How has the scene evolved since you first started coming to shows five years ago?
Mohammed: That is a very profound and humbling notion; I didn’t realize I was even wearing that mantle. The Spoken Word scene is the closest thing I have seen to a cultural renaissance, comparing from what it was to what it has become. Personally, I feel privileged to have been a part of it; it has allowed to see myself in ways I never thought possible.
Dorian: How have you changed as a poet over the past few years?
Mohammed: What I can say is that I have a better perspective on the spoken word scene; in my humble opinion that there are two categories performers tend to lean towards, one more than the other. One is showmanship, the other is poetry. I think I have accomplished in improving as the former, and while I’d say there’s still room for more – I need to focus on improving the poetry itself.
Dorian: Recently, you have mentioned that you would like to pursue cinematography and videography full-time. Is there a market for that in the UAE?
Mohammed: Despite the challenges, which include financial limitations, I’m utterly convinced that there is.
Dorian: Where do you see yourself five years from now? 10 years?
Mohammed: I’d like to travel while I still have whatever measure of health I have left and, perhaps, volunteer in humanitarian groups. Whatever it is, it won’t be here and it will certainly be outside the scope of one’s career path. I don’t see myself staying in one place. I don’t think God enriched this planet with its cultures and natural treasures expecting us to stay in one corner.
Dorian: I agree. I don’t see myself staying around for the check. Can you handle it?
Mohammed: *Blank stare*