We turn to vending machines to offer us a quick fix: a hot chocolate, a pack of ear buds, a bag of chips, or a gold bar if you are in the United Arab Emirates. There is even a kibble vending machine for stray animals. But two Emirati female friends thought of using the vending machine concept to poke a bit fun at their local culture and also to dispense acts of kindness.
They started an Instagram project in 2020 during a lockdown and their culture-connecting Wild Arab West account has grown into a clothing and lifestyle business featuring products that fuse the east and the west. The Arabian Middle East culture is not commonly known to poke fun at itself although here and there standouts appear like No Woman No Drive from Saudi Arabia.
Their interactive installation in a vending machine was on display at Dubai Design Week. And it will compliment you in Arabic and English and aims to improve mental health.
At the press of a button, a small, colored box delivers cards from a vending machine with sayings like “I would give up coffee for you” and “Has anyone told you how great you are?” written on them.
Some parts of the installation aim to explain what’s going on between the lines in the Middle East, like “chicken nugget” an expression for a local who speaks and acts “western”.
Stationed streetside at Dubai Design District, the WAW Machine churns out compliments in Arabic and English, seeking to spread some positivity and put a smile on people’s faces.
“There was just last month mental health awareness week, and it’s definitely something that we wanted to focus on, especially now that everything’s going back to normal regarding COVID,” cofounder Almidfa told Al-Monitor, a local newspaper.
“We felt like we needed to start off with something positive. Our main aim behind all of our initiatives is basically to brighten people’s day and just lift people up because I feel, especially after COVID, we really need some self-love and to be kind to one another.”
WAW went on to exhibit artworks related to their “Wild Dictionary” series, which Almidfa describes as the “Urban Dictionary of the UAE.”
They take every day Arabic words or pop culture references and give each an English translation so everyone can understand it. Some of these words are printed on merch you can find in their online shop.