Creating: collectively and internationally

Just a little collaboration can give artists the juice needed for their creative process, encourages Alia Hijaab, an artist with Flavourcel. Solo work can be taxing for artists and Flavourcel seeks to make art less stressful, more playful, and more experimental.

“Art feels sometimes like an unchosen path, something I was always meant to do,” says Hijaab.

Animation, poetry, and collaboration are at the centre of Flavourcel, a collective of artists and animators who choose to work together.

Collaborating and experimenting

Hijaab starts her days speaking with students at Emily Carr University where she is a Student Wellness Advocate. After leaving work, she heads to her studio and works on projects for the Flavourcel Animation Collective.

Screenshot of animation by Flavourcel. | Photo courtesy of Flavourcel

Born in Syria, Hijaab is one of the ten artists from Ontario, Nova Scotia, South Korea, the United States, and elsewhere who make up the collective’s membership. Dedicated to her profession, Hijaab says her path shifted slightly after arriving in Canada at the age of 18 and now also seeks to give to the community that supported her as a new immigrant.

“I’m trying to understand what skills, experience, and stories I can share to show my gratitude not only to the community, but to the land, and the people that were here before me,” says the artist.

Flavourcel describes itself as a collective that emphasizes, at its core, their collaborative spirit. Hijaab describes the collective as artists drawn together by their mutual love for working together, food, and animation. Flavourcel pushes back against the notion that artistic independence requires artists to work alone rather than together.

“I feel like I have some independence, but it is a collective at the end of the day. We are more an entity than one person,” says Hijaab.

Hijaab says she can choose to take part in as many or as little projects as she desires. Flavourcel believes solitary practice puts more pressure on artists and working collaboratively alleviates stress. Whatever input Hijaab gives, she believes Flavourcel always values it.

A page from Alia Hijaab’s comic Gone. | Photo by Alia Hijaab

“I feel respected and valued enough within the collective that I feel my ideas and viewpoints are deeply considered,” she says. “We all do equally, so everything is more of a conversation than an independent action.”

Flavourcel’s projects include producing animated music videos for punk bands, producing colourful internet GIFs, gallery shows, and other commissioned animation projects. The collective is currently in residence at Western Front, a non-profit centre in Vancouver run by multidisciplinary artists. Flavourcel, creating a more playful atmosphere, believes in making space for experimenting with different formats.

“We are open to experimental projects that push boundaries of collective art-making and animation as a medium itself,” says Hijaab. “We use animation as a mechanism to play and explore and see what comes of it.”

One of Hijaab’s favourite pieces of her art pushed her own artistic boundaries. She created a comic called “Gone” in 2017, which was made into a short film. It became Hijaab’s thesis project at Emily Carr University. Hijaab considers it the first time she felt animation was a means of expressing feelings beyond words.

“This comic was the first time I started leaning more into poetry as a jumping off point for animations,” she says. “I never considered myself much of a writer, or a poet for that matter; but writing poetry is a very valuable tool for me to work through my feelings and come up with ideas for Flavourcel projects.”

Giving back to the community

Hijaab suggests those who want to get to know her work with Flavourcel should look at a project called “Rear Window Cinema,’’ which was a Flavourcel collaboration with Emily Carr University and VIVO Media Arts.

“I really love the animation I created for the Rear Window Cinema project,” she says. “It is an animation about my neighborhood, and the Himalayan blackberries that find homes in the cracks of East Vancouver neighborhoods.”

For Hijaab, it is good to pull the blackberries out of the sidewalks, because they are invasive but can still be enjoyed as a treat.

“It was an animation that felt like a gift to my neighborhood, and that is a practice that I would share with others,” says Hijaab. “I never thought about making art for my neighbors, and it was really lovely framing animation in that way.”

For more information about Flavourcel, visit www.flavourcel.com

For more information about Alia Hijaab, visit www.aliahijaab.com

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