"I Realized that Colors Make People Happy"

The little note rang especially true during my chat with Noof AlRefaei, the eccentric owner of the newly established Sikkah Gallery. Upon walking into the shop, I was struck by the rawness of the environment; pots hanging from the ceiling, a refurbished car seat by the store window, colorful soda bottle lamps, and Marilyn Monroe’s face in multiple hues on the wall. “I started off with the soda bottles, about four years ago, when I was obsessed with the different ways young people could use these simple things to hurt each other. I also didn’t want to see things go to waste and be littered on the street. I wanted to re-channel that energy into something productive and positive.”

Noof started this project off with an art installation at Al Riwaq Art Space, before kicking her artsy business into gear with Bab Market later on, after her friends insisted that she should give it a go. She had always been in the artistic field, originally as a painter focused on fine arts with mixed media. It’s surely in her blood, as she learned the tricks of the trade from her father, an artist in his own right, and used everything she learned to pave her own path.
Now, years later, it’s easy to spot Noof’s influence in many corners of the kingdom, from her recent set up at Market 338 for the Bahrain Noor El Ain festival, to small restaurant and boutique decor. The artists insists, and justifiably so, that every space has a right to be funky in its own right. “In fact, I’m currently working on decorating a dental clinic!”

Sikkah Gallery is a vibrant representation of where she stands as an artist, and who she is as a person. “We created everything in this store ourselves, from the pots and pans hanging down from the walls, to the couches, to the textures on the floor!” It was no surprise, as there was an undeniable sense of community in the space, and an air of camaraderie in her work.
It’s rare to find an artist whose work speaks its message so coherently, and reflects its owner’s ideals so unambiguously. It’s almost as if I didn’t even have to ask her, because, looking around at the hand-built chess tables on the floor and painted Crush soda bottles on the shelves, I already knew she was a force for good in the country’s creative scene.

Malja can thrive as a community sharing the same productive values. "I already try to offer workshops whenever I can, and Malja is that creative space I can use to share my experiences and my skills with other artists who want to experiment with their work. I'm so excited to give and to learn!"
“I just wanted to turn seemingly negative things and ‘waste’ into positive expressions that everyone can use.” She does. But hey, don’t take it from me; her work speaks for itself.

- Noor Nooruddin

- Photo: Ali Haji

January 8, 2015