In September 2019 at the ceremony in City Hall, judge Venetia Porter awarded children’s book author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan with the Arab British Centre Award for Culture in the category of Individuals. We caught up with Nadine a few months after the Award to ask what she’s been up to, and what the next year might bring…
Describe your work in one sentence…
To describe my work in one sentence… it’s tough. Fun, surreal, creative, and authentic.
You won the Award for Culture in September this year. What have you been up to since then?
I’ve been working on a children’s book for Bloomsbury New York. It’s a really beautiful, non-fiction story about a Syrian cello player called Bassel who had to leave his dog back home in Syria. After taking a very rough refugee journey to arrive in Brussels, he heard that his dog had got depressed and so Bassel decided to bring the dog to Brussels, with the help of a friend. The story follows this difficult mission and in the end he is reunited with his dog so it’s a really heartwarming story. It’s great, because it’s a non-fiction, I am on whatsapp with the guy and he keeps sending me pictures of him and his dog and his life there, so I can make sure I illustrate it with honesty.
Aside from winning the Award, what have been your 2019 highlights?
Well the highlight of 2019 was obviously winning the Award for Culture, it was such a surprise for me as I honestly did not expect it – I only applied two days before the deadline! I’m really looking forward to doing lots with it in the next two years. Now, other highlights… I would say, the Bloomsbury book. Bloomsbury is one of the biggest publishers of children’s books in the world, and I’ve been before only working with independent publishers so this is my first big contract and I’m really happy about it. But really, the main highlight is that this year is the first year of me working as a mum so I’m basically learning how to mummy and be working at the same time… it’s been a rough journey – beautiful and fun and rough, with sleepless nights sometimes – but you keep going and I am able to do it.
The end of the year, and the decade, is fast approaching. Big question, but what are your ambitions for the 2020s?
My ambition is to work more, and do more work for Syrian child refugees. This year I’ve been busy being a mum and doing the book for Bloomsbury, but I’m hoping that next year I will take this book and be able to meet as many child refugees as possible and read it for them. I’d like to do more events that build cultural bridges and that gather children from the UK and Syria to talk about the culture. I’d particularly like to do art workshops that are focused on cultural heritage and cultural identity, as that is one of the things that I’m passionate about. So yes, my ambition for 2020 is to be more active for Syrian kids.
It’s safe to say that the UK-Arab cultural scene is thriving… who are your ones to watch for next year?
There are a lot of Arab cultural festivals that have started up in the UK. There is a Syrian festival in Manchester for example, and I’ve seen some wonderful singers, comedians, artists, so it is getting better. One of the things that I’ve done this year is sing in an Arabic choir that revived old and traditional Arabic songs so I’m hoping that that will be something to look out for next year.
If you had to sum up your 2019 in one song, what would it be?
This song pushes me to work and be alive! :’)
Check out our interview with Marsm, who won the Award in the category of Organisations!