Emirati artists create 'kindness' vending machine for Dubai Design Week

Two friends have printed out more than 3,000 compliments and motivational sayings for visitors at the November event

For the first six months of Wild Arab West’s existence, no one knew who was running it.

It's an art, lifestyle and entertainment platform that started during the pandemic, when Emirati friends Hessa Ali Alechla, 29, and Iman Al Midfa, 28, felt inspired to launch a creative brand that fuses eastern and western cultures, and that's relatable to the younger generations.

“We can call it our quarantine child,” Ali Alechla says with a laugh.

They started with an Instagram platform, which has grown to have more than 50,000 followers. They held their own exhibition at Dubai Design District in 2020, and even launched a line of merchandise, including clothes, iPhone covers and stickers, with more to come soon.

Now, they’re taking part in Dubai Design Week, which starts on Monday, November 8, with an interactive vending machine that promotes kindness.

“After the coronavirus [pandemic] happened, a lot of focus was on mental health and being nice to everybody,” Ali Alechla explains. “We thought that the vending machine would not only enrich other people’s lives, but it’s also in line with what we stand for as a brand – we like to lighten people’s moods, get them to have fun, enjoy themselves, [and] share content that’s relevant to their friends as well.”

Throughout the duration of the event, the vending machine, which they’ve rented, will stand outside Building 7, offering visitors compliments and motivational sayings. It’s all free, all you have to do is press a button, and a box with a quote, in either Arabic or English (depending on your choice), will fall out.

The ladies have printed more than 3,000 sayings and compliments so far, and based on demand during the event, are poised to whip up more if necessary.

Much of this content is based on the pair’s Instagram posts, those that were most popular with their audience, plus plenty they’ve come up with for this specific installation.

The duo, who met in university and have backgrounds in finance, will also be there to greet onlookers. They’re looking forward to introducing themselves officially as the women behind the popular account.

“Many people think we might be male, or a mix of female and male, as our content is more catered to both genders. We get requests from male friends to help push this, too,” says Al Midfa.

"Maybe many think females are not as fun or funny, not able to produce that kind of content," she says with a laugh. "We’re not sure why that stereotype was put on us, but there will be an element of surprise [for people].”

Another misconception about the founders is that they work in the creative space. “We haven’t studied art. Many people think we are graphic designers, which we love to hear, but we’re not.”

It’s easy to see why people might think that. A brief look through their Instagram feed shows colourful, fun, graphic-heavy content and memes that are eye-catching, riff on news and trending topics, and most importantly, are relatable to a young Khaleeji crowd.

“We were very surprised in the uptake and popularity of the account when we started,” says Al Midfa. “It’s surreal.”

Dubai Design Weeks runs from Monday to Saturday, November 8 to 13

Updated: October 31st 2021, 7:45 AM