Whether she's in Lebanon or Montreal, Zina Mufarrij draws inspiration from her surroundings
Originally from Lebanon, Zina Mufarrij has been living abroad for a while. After spending three years in Dubai, working for world-leading creative agency Leo Burnett, Zina moved to Montreal in 2008. Pulling out her pencils from a dusty corner and starting her Zina Comics blog in April 2009, she is now a full-time freelance illustrator and graphic designer. “I started it just for fun, to draw and regain confidence in my pencil,” she says. “I’m inspired and I draw, that’s all I do.”
Underneath the funny looks of her characters, Zina Comics presents two distinct outlooks on life. On the one hand, it depicts Zina’s adventures in Montreal. “Montreal is very inspiring for me. It brings out a lot of emotion in me and helps me draw comics of my life experiences. Usually I have to draw right after the incident happens to me, because it has to relate to current events. It can be serious, but humour helps the message to get through. People who can’t laugh at themselves are a little bit sad.”
On the other side, Mufarrij offers humorous criticism of Lebanese society “without being judgemental” through the character of Coussouma, a maid like the one most families have in Lebanon. “Even though they are part of the family, nobody seems to notice them in comics or stories. And when I saw a picture [after the crash of an Ethiopian plane in the sea near Beirut, in January 2010] of an old lady crying her eyes out because she had just lost her maid in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, I thought, ‘These women leave their country to come to Lebanon and work for our families. We often take them for granted and we ought to acknowledge what they do.’ And that’s when I started to draw Coussouma,” remembers Zina, who often goes back to Lebanon to visit friends and relatives.
Blending Arabic, French and English, Mufarrij has managed to create her own world in her comic strips. But even though she’s now working on a full-length comic book, she is still drawing for others. After getting a degree in graphic design -”I just wanted to understand Photoshop, Illustrator and stuff like that, but I feel like it restrained
me because I’m thinking way too much about my drawings now”- Zina climbed the steps of her profession two by two and has notably done jobs for Hachette/Librairie Antoine and InFoods, not to mention wedding invitations for friends. “If the project seems interesting and I have the time to do it, I’ll seize the opportunity,” she says, smiling.
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