Headscarves that Tell Stories

Amna Yandarbin, an MFA final year student in Design of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar), wants to tell the story of Noxci people through the design of silk headscarves and thus leave a lasting impression on the person who uses them.

Yolkkh designed by Amna Yandarbin for her final year project tells her story to humanise a community long forgotten.

“The story takes the form of silk headscarves, each one illustrating a specific scene and moment in time. Noxci are people who Russians refer to as, “Chechens;” a label picked up by the Western media. As a Muslim, I have witnessed the way the Western media tends to dehumanize my community. By telling the story of my family I seek to counteract Islamophobic tendencies and engender empathy. The story of my family highlights efforts to preserve our native Noxci identity, despite the most painful events, including war, migration, violence, and death,” says Amna Yandarbin.

SCALE tries to find out more about the concept of the design.


SCALE: What was the project concept? And how did you tackle it uniquely? What would be your projects’ USP?

AMNA: The main concept of the project was the Impact of Visual Storytelling. I took on this concept by sharing my own personal story in the hopes of triggering empathy and leaving a lasting image in their hearts. I did this by figuring out how to create a fashionable scarf while at the same time tell my story behind it but not make it look like a scene from a comic book or from an animation. And what makes my project unique from others is how it is able to tell a story like no other object before it; it is the first time ever I watch as a fashion material tells a visual story simply through illustrations not used in storybooks.

SCALE: How differently would you have approached the project if it was not completed during lockdown?

AMNA: If I had been given more time to further develop this project, I would add embroidery onto the scarves to further enrich the design and value it. I may also use Qatari shaylas as my new base for more stories to tell stories that are inspired by the coming together of the Qatari culture and Noxci culture. I also want to hand paint a story onto the scarves because that would be a totally different experience from digitally printing a finished design; directly painting on the fabric would give it a more poetic sense. But overall, for my current project, I am primarily hoping that whoever sees them, especially my native people and Muslims worldwide, would be inspired by it to speak up and share their stories. My goal from the start of this project has been to spread awareness, trigger empathy, and stand up against dehumanization, and that is what I will focus on as I continue to further develop the scarves or when I create new designs for more untold stories to be shared. And if there was no lockdown I probably would have had more options to edit my pieces.

SCALE: How excited are you to be part of the professional race and be part of the design fraternity? What are your future plans and would Qatar be the place you would choose to work in?

AMNA: I am very excited to join the world of design for the first time in my life, my thesis project and its success has finally given me the confidence I always lacked. So, this was also a journey that boosted my confidence and strengthened me as a freelance artist/designer. My future plans revolve around telling more stories because there are a lot of important stories to be shared with the world and I definitely plan on working here in Qatar as it is my second home where I have been living for the past 20 years. Some of my possible future projects include concepts of migration, blending into the Qatari culture, friendship and loneliness, the identity each language has, and how speaking multiple languages changes the way one involves in conversation, which is also something I experienced living surrounded by four different languages spoken by people constantly, as well as other possible topics I can pick that I experienced.

All Images Courtesy: VCUArts Qatar