Alia Al Shamsi

  College: Ustinov College
  Subject: Photographic Image    
  Class of: 2008
  Location: United Arab Emirates

Your Durham Inspiration

Do you remember why you first chose to study at Durham?
I chose it because it was the exact thing I wanted to study. Surely enough it was the degree that opened up the opportunity to not only practice photography as a photojournalist but also teach it at the American University of Sharjah.

Tell us about any sports, societies or clubs you were involved in at Durham.
I was part of the founding team of the Durham Art Festival which was the setting stone for the career that would soon come.

What work or moment were you were most proud of at Durham?
The content that was taught inspired me to think in new perspectives and new ways of experiencing photography.

What are your fondest memories from your time here?
The long walks, the nature and the serenity.

How has Durham inspired you to get to where you are today?
Durham opened me up to endless opportunity, from interning at the V&A museum while writing my thesis to later teaching at university. With each step it brought me to this very moment, working in Louvre Abu Dhabi as a cultural programming manager.


What have you been up to since you left Durham?
I taught photography at the American University in Sharjah, I worked in a series of positions in arts and culture specifically with outreach. I then ventured in writing and illustrating and have three books for children published with two of them having received national and international recognition and awards and a third book on poetry. I am also currently the cultural programming manager in Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.

What are you doing that is most meaningful to you now?
I’m a firm believer in only doing things that are meaningful and with passion. I love my career whether my personal projects with writing and art or creating experiences for audiences at Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Is there anything from Durham that has stayed with you and still inspires you now?
I meet people who went there or who are going there and I always say it with a smile, I studied in Durham.

Tell us about your latest news or developments.
I just published a poetry book bilingual Arabic and English and concluded a global virtual museum symposium with Louvre Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi on the theme Reframing Museums.

Personal interests
Arts and Culture, experimenting with different mediums, horse riding always make the time for it when I travel, traveling too although current situations are not ideal but much hope for the future.

Pass It On

What would be your top piece of advice for current students and/or recent graduates?
To be open to opportunities, to be resilient and to know that it’s not about the grades as much as it is what you end up doing with the knowledge you learn.

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when graduating?
That coming to Durham was just the start of a wonderful journey.

Related links

Published work

Alayah – a children book on memory, belonging and identity.
Night & Day – a children silent book on the myth of the creation of night (Arabian Myth) and day (Aztec Sun god story)
Folklore Stories from the UAE – re-written stories for today’s children (collective of 10 authors)
The Ocean Can see through My Soul – bilingual poetry

Social Media

Instagram @aliaalshamsi
Twitter @aliaalshamsi

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