The Other Story Project
The Other Story Project began on September 25, 2015 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by its founder, Fatima Al-Banawi. The project collects real life stories and personal narratives from people who are locals of a city or who happen to be visiting it for work, family, or leisure. The first cycle of story collection has been taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. All the stories in the story collection are 1) anonymous, 2) handwritten, and 3) no longer than a single A4 page.
The stories are handwritten at the exact moment of expression, and are exhibited/published without editing or alterations. The project only accepts stories that are hand-written, which symbolizes the human touch and the writers’ mood, emotions, scribbles, and speed, while preserving a sense of individuality to each anonymous story.
The Other Story Performance Series, The Other Story Book, and The Other Story Podcast are all works in progress stemming from this project, and they all enter the social arena through storytelling to highlight our shared humanity and to record the eclectic voices of a place in a time in history.
In 2015, in a time where public spaces were not vibrant in Saudi Arabia, Al-Banawi toured with a pen, papers and an envelop collecting stories from people. Six months later, and with a growing appetite to write, Al-Banawi travelled around the city with wooden kiosks placed in the popular cafes of her hometown, Jeddah. Each was equipped with a stack of blank paper, pens, a submission box and an exhortation to “Write your story.”
Al-Banawi spent the following years turning the anonymous one-page submissions into performance art pieces. She also shared some on Instagram alongside illustrations she commissioned.This multi-hyphenate creative who aspires to deepen the conversation and strengthen the bridge between social impact and the arts is the founder of The Other Story Project – Jeddah city’s public space mover and shaker since 2015. She has collected almost 5000 real life stories from strangers and packaged many into productions, such as the short film “A Blink of an Eye“. From the first touring Biennale in the world inaugurated in Buenos Aires, to Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Al-Banawi travels locally and internationally to perform human stories. Though a challenging endeavor in a private society, she believes in the power of storytelling to channel vulnerable and intimate conversations. She was selected as a Next Generation Leader by Time Magazine for her unique ventures, and was called the (Sophie Calle of Saudi Arabia) by members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris after the great reception of her performance “Amours Saoudiennes”.
Al-Banawi had received a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from Harvard University, where she focused on Gender Theory, Religion, and Issues of Identity and Representation in contemporary Middle East. Prior to that, she was a Psychological Caseworker at the Family Protection Society in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a private charity organization combating women & child abuse. An integral part to her research interests stems from her experience with these women and her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Effat University, Jeddah.
To get to know the founder more, you can visit her official page here.