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Warrior within

Lack of opportunities in her chosen profession is no deterrent for this determined Emirati comic strip artist

Image Credit: © XPRESS/Pankaj Sharma
A boy named Finn is the central protagonist in Warrior U

DUBAI: You are like a new fish in a large pond on your first day in university, but you still have to make friends. The question is just how do you do that.

Best advice? First you set your eyes on a target. Next, you obsessively watch the target until it's safe to make your move; third, when the time is right you approach… as casually as you possibly can. Once you make contact, you point out something you have in common, and there, you've got a friend.

At least that's how it's done according to 22-year-old Emirati comic strip artist Aisha Thani, who has created her own comic strip Warrior U about the challenges of university life.

Warrior U is the story of a petite young boy named Finn who dreams of becoming a bard. Unfortunately, to be eligible he has to take a warrior class at the local university Warrior U.

Aisha's comics, which are posted on her website, have received over 500 likes on Facebook.

Frustration galore

While her work has appealed to people of all ages, Aisha, a SAE Institute graduate, can't help feeling frustrated at the lack of job opportunities for a cartoonist in the UAE.

"There isn't a job for people like me and people who draw… the comics I see here are written here, but drawn by some guy in Canada," she explains, adding that the career fairs here treat her case with outright rejection.

The Dubai-based aspiring cartoonist was initially enrolled as a student in Zayed University before transferring to SAE Institute to study 3D animation.

Aisha, who began sketching her own cartoon character at the age of six, says: "My ultimate dream is to work on animated cartoons."

Strange that, at a younger age, Aisha dreamed of becoming an entomologist. "A bug scientist basically…However, I was terrified of having to crack one open. So I thought I'd be a cartoonist instead," she said.

Aisha began work on Warrior U about two years ago when she had to pitch a comic strip idea for the student section of a local daily. But the section closed down following which she took to the web to post her comics and print copies on her own. She now has enough material for a book.

Aisha says it's easy to relate to the characters. "It's not always about fitting in, it's about sitting out, you know? He's [Finn] a mama's boy, and he lives in his mama's house, and he's trying to start his career, and going to college is always about that. It's always about living on your own, making your own friends."

However, not all the action takes place inside Warrior University. "I get bored of them [cartoon characters] staying in the university, I want them to go out, and have fun. Get chased by a unicorn or something."

The one complaint Aisha's received is that she needs to add a more Arabic tone to her works. "I don't know why everything that's made here has to be really traditional. I think if you have a character in an imaginary place, anyone can relate to that."


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