Kuwait, Musings, Writing

Athnain Magazine: A Polished Thought Experiment

Thought Experiments on Nothingness

Okay, I’m going to try to make this as short and sweet as I can. The writing is very lacking in Athnain. This is not to say that it’s bad (it’s not great)–its just that there is very, very little of it. Speaking as someone who has spent considerable time and experience in the magazine business I can tell you that the real weight behind any magazine on the face of this earth are the articles and the writing. Really, if you don’t have a solid base of written content then all your other themes, ideas, and aesthetics will just not be able to stand. It’s that simple. The publication and its contents will come off as vapid, superficial, and, most of all, unimportant. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that the people who Athnain featured and the topics they decided to discuss are not worthy of featuring and of discussion. On the contrary. I happen to personally know several of the people they’ve featured in the Fashion Profiles, the bloggers, and have already expressed my opinion on Ascia’s significance. What I am saying is that, in choosing to solely focus on image quality and shock value (which is all good and fine), Athnain may have devalued all that would have potentially had great, real value.

In short: Athnain seems to confuse visibility with significance. It’s like they don’t want to feature talented people because they know how to make things, they want to feature them because they are a magnet for the fashionable. That’s a problem, and its a problem that Kuwait’s been having since the explosion of the social media bubble. The problem where everyone wants to hop the Instagram shortcut train into fame and stardom town. Some people want it for luxury; some want it for acceptance; and some just want to wear the word ‘celebrity’ like a skin-suit all day long. That’s the point behind the ‘Waseet’ bloggers who buy thousands of followers, the secret behind all the overnight ‘designers,’ and all the other social media glamazons who have been cropping up like wildflowers as of late.

And this annoying trend is at the crux of Athnain’s lack of written content. By choosing to not talk a whole lot about the people you feature but merely include a few ‘edgy’ quotes (some of which are actually movie titles and Harry Winston quotes, FYI) and to merely tap the surface in interviews with questions about how it is to be famous, Athnain feels like just another vehicle in Kuwait’s popularity stream. A stream that traffics in artifice, and can use smoke and mirrors to create ‘star quality’ and ‘shock value,’ but, in the end, it just can’t pull genuine significance from neither its content nor it’s subjects. (Again, I’m not saying that the people and ideas that Athnain brings up are not significant, I’m saying that this is how Athnain made them seem.)

The truth is, you can make yourself famous–most of the individuals which Athnain featured are undeniably famous. But there are no shortcuts. Real magic isn’t real. The Secret isn’t real. Pantomiming importance does not make you important. You don’t get to skip all the work and all the important meat of the struggle and just matter without doing all the work that makes people matter. By not focusing on any of that ‘meat’ and that depth, Athnain paints a picture that you don’t need the substance and the work to matter, you just need to be glamorous and fabulous. In this way Athnain honestly did itself and those who it featured a great disservice by choosing to forgo the writing track as much as it did.

Because what happens is that this overwhelming and exhausting feeling of empty content leaves you with no one and nothing to root for.

All of these are reasons why I thought it was important to talk about Athnain and why I think Athnain itself could potentially be very important in the long run. I really hope the editors of Athnain take my critical remarks as well as my encouraging ones with the openness and the good nature with which I present it to them. I honestly believe that, given a few shape-ups here and there, Athnain could be a signifier for exciting change in Kuwait and can be a vehicle for real, cultural shift. I know that this is the premier issue and so mistakes are absolutely fine and they are expected. I will absolutely be buying the next issue and I’m already super excited about it.

All my love!

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6 thoughts on “Athnain Magazine: A Polished Thought Experiment

  1. Really enjoyed your honest review of the magazine. I initially had the same feeling about the magazine and was caught up in an imaginary hype. The instagram posts revolving around the launch and cover girl looked so promising. My first thought had slowly faded after being published as not many reviews or mentions of contents were made. It is now clear to me that it holds no proper substance. Like you said, a magazines beef is in the writing. I’m sure the people are lovely and their ideas are new and transending. Looking forward to future issues……..out of curiosity.

    1. First of all: thank you for the comment and SO SORRY it took me this long to reply.

      I really think that Athnain has a lot of things going for it and that, if it just invests more time in written content, it could be a showstopper and a vehicle for real, cultural change. I honestly believe that.

      I also really commend their efforts and their daring attitude towards presenting something so different to the public and something which caters to a different voice and an unheard (but existing) demographic.

      The review was in no way meant to dissuade anyone from buying the magazine or meant to make Athnain seem completely meaningless. Clearly I see room for great potential and the magazine has its good aspects, I just wished that they gave those things value and significance instead of merely glossing over them momentarily.

      Thanks again for the great comment!

  2. Thanks for the great honest review! I also had some doubt about it when I saw nobody talked about it very much after the release of the magazine … U made me interested to see it and see what is so different about it … I like that they are trying to be unique but as u said without enough proper articles n stuff like that a magazine will not have much meaning… Thank u again for the review!! I will maybe buy it but i will keep ur critic in mind

    1. And thank you for the well-thought comment!

      Well, like I said in the comment above, I wasn’t trying to dissuade anyone from buying it. Really, I was just trying to give an overview of the magazine’s strengths and weaknesses because I think that this is a magazine which a lot of people don’t know how to approach because it really is, in many ways, so different from any other magazine in Kuwait’s current market.

      That’s why I thought this whole review of Athnain specifically (as opposed to any other magazine or Kuwait’s general magazine industry) was important.

      I hope you do buy the magazine and come back to tell me what your own personal take-away was!

  3. i brought the magazine and i really see wat ur talkin about …. i also felt like it was bit empty & needed more meaning in the words..

    Ur right the pictures are very nice & beautiful & i feel like they have a strong msg about men & women & different personalities can be both (dont know if that sounded right ;Pp)

    am going to buy the next issue cuz i see potential as u said but if the next one is like the 1st then i will not buy more….

    Thank u for the great post as always !! xx

    1. I see what you’re trying to say, and I agree.

      I personally LOVED the way they tried to re-configure gender dynamics and invert what it means to be either a man or a woman. The reality is that things like ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are made-up, entirely arbitrary premises which can have no bearing on a person’s actual identity or the way they choose to carry themselves, whether a man or a woman.

      I really loved the fact that they were willing to take that daring step to open up room for those different interpretations of male and female identity and how, really, the only ‘rule’ is there are no rules.

      And, yes, the pictures were very rich and divine.

      I’m going to buy the next issue too, and I’m hoping for the best inshallah. I really hope they do up their writing game for the sake of these other lofty and important aspirations. Because the reality is that without any solid writing base they can’t possibly hope to make any meaningful, lasting impression AND I REALLY REALLY WANT THEM TO.

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