Founder and editor Azara Jaleel (Pic by Musthaq Thasleem)

When someone thinks of art, they also think of the reflection of the artist. A mirror is something that is closely associated with a reflection. When you place the word ‘ART’ in front of a mirror, the mirror image spells it backwards, ‘TRA’. Together, these two words make ARTRA, as it says on the cover of the art and design magazine.” I think it’s very symbolic and art is all about aesthetics and beauty,” says its founder and editor, Azara Jaleel.

She first dreamt of an art magazine while working in the corporate field. “I felt that there are gaps in the art scene that should be better documented. A magazine is the first thing that came into mind because it’s easy to read, to illustrate and to put content that would be intellectually appealing. I first thought of this in January 2012 and then in July 2012 we launched our first issue.” Artra turned out to be a bimonthly magazine with 24 issues under its belt.

Artra features different elements from the fields of visual art, performing art, design, fashion, architecture, literature as well as wildlife photography. Different sections of the magazine are dedicated to highlighting these different elements. “We have a section called art personalities where we primarily feature leading personalities in the field. Emerging artist section features promising artists. I am very proud to say that almost 50 per cent of the people we feature in this section are now working in different galleries like Saskia Fernando Gallery and Barefoot. We hope to be the platform to provide emerging artists the opportunity to become professionals. In the born free art section, we feature interesting photography of the wild,” she says.

Changes will be introduced with its newest issue. To broaden the spectrum, the magazine would focus on contemporary art as well. “We want to inspire those who have potential to engage in art. There is a saying, ‘If you say you are an artist, you are jobless’. But now there are so many opportunities for artists as designers among others. We want artists to be exposed to these opportunities. Artra is not about the social status, age or gender of a person. Art is something beyond all this. The colour of the logo will be changed to symbolically highlight the dynamism of the magazine.”

Another thing that will be new is the section called pop culture and art. “When it comes to pop culture, everyone knows the songs and they can relate to it. We are trying to draw an association between pop culture and art to show people that they are literally talking about the same thing,” she says.

Artra has a larger scope than that meets the eye. “There are very few art collectors and as a consequence visual art industry is very small. People are slightly intimidated by Art. They think it’s for the intellectuals and it’s up there and very expensive.” In order to break this barrier and emphasize that art is a grounded medium that is accessible to everyone, the Artra team incorporated things that people can relate to. “This way we are able to capture a larger audience and make them understand the point of visual art.” Jaleel claims that the creative industry is minute. “Right now people work individually. If we are to grow as an industry, we need everyone working together.”

Artra features everyone because this gives the team an opportunity to work with a larger segment of the creative industry. Jaleel hopes to turn Artra into a strong platform that spearheads the growth of the creative industry. She believes that for an industry to grow, awareness of what’s happening is essential. “This is our first step. We make sure that the content constitutes creativity from all pockets of creative industry.” Jaleel launched Collectors Desk with Saskia Fernando,  a platform to educate art collectors, professionals and corporates about the art industry, hoping to increase investment and interest.
She believes being a woman has always been an advantage. “There are strengths that only females have that could work in one’s favour when being an entrepreneur. There are certain characteristics that are inherent to me as a female. These include being creative, patient, tolerant. People really appreciate that and support you more. I never felt that I was at a disadvantage because I am a woman. It has always been my strength,” she shared.

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