Maitha Al Suwaidi, Emirati performance artist and poet, first fell in love with spoken word in high school. As she began reading novels and short stories, she eventually discovered poetry as a medium through which she could express herself. At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Maitha shared her gratitude for the Emirati women who have supported her throughout her journey in education and the arts. With their guidance, she has seized the opportunity to uplift other women in this space.
“I realized that poetry had a lot of space for me to explore different ways of expression and different modes of telling a story. And I found that to be both an opportunity and a great space to be able to just be myself and to grow with my art.
“I think a lot about my grandmothers when I write. They not only give me stories to write about, but they give me company in ways that I've not experienced with anyone else. I often think about my grandmother and our trips to the goat farm when we'd go sit with the goats and look at the crops that she's growing and just spend a day together… really just be present in nature, be present outside, and it's really beautiful.
“My time here at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has been extremely transformative. It was so enjoyable to be able to have a space where I could share my experiences back home. The stories that I'm told by my family, by my friends, and kind of the uniqueness of celebrating identity and culture in the UAE. Not only was I able to talk about myself and my culture, history and heritage, but also learn from other people and about their experiences and lives here.”
Maitha is an alumna of NYU Abu Dhabi, where she majored in Political Science and minored in Social Research and Public Policy as well as Creative Writing. She is also an advocate for mental health awareness and a UAE Rhodes Scholar.