LAMA DRIVES UP in her black VW convertible. Her English has a slight American accent and she speaks with clarity and consideration.

At 18, Lama decided to head over to San Francisco to study graphic design and live with her brother who had been based there for over 10 years. This was a relatively easy process as she already had a green card thanks to a successful application by her father's family generations before.

Lama loved it in San Francisco, but it wasn't without a few disappointments. Her new group of friends quickly halved when they discovered she was from the middle-east, and was a Muslim. Surprised that it was such an issue, Lama decided to dedicate her final project to religious stereotypes. Again, she found teachers were divided in their opinions on the project.

"I was worried I would fail if someone racist were marking my work!"

Lama managed to find both an illustrator and doll maker for the project, which you can see here, via etsy from Italy and Belgium respectively. And they were all able to help each other expand their portfolios with no extra expense.

Now, back in Amman, Lama lives in her family's home. This is not unusual for an unmarried Jordanian girl in her mid-20s. Although, there is a rise in girls her age renting out apartments with friends.

Lama's parents were among the thousands of Palestinians who fled their country in the Arab-Israel war, originally heading to the United Arab Emirates. Lama was born there, but when she was three years old, her grandfather became ill and her father made the decision to relocate to Amman to look after him.


With two brothers and two sisters, they all live in a limestone house, one of many situated on Amman’s hillsides. When I arrived, Lama's mother had just finished testing out the new bread maker with some delicious banana bread.

Lama's room is filled with furniture from family, old finds in antique stores and markets in Istanbul and San Francisco. She also has her illustrations from a Skateboard exhibition hanging on the wall. These recent illustrations took a turn from the regular child like style of portraiture, to bright, abstract and geometric portraits.

Lama doesn’t wear a Hijab, which I am told are worn out of modesty, often from the age of 15-16, like some other Muslim women. When asked why she does not wear one, Lama explains that her parents said it was up to her. A choice she believes should be available to all women.

Unfortunately though, it’s not, and I am told of stories of girls who arrive to school wearing a Hijab, only to head straight to the toilets to take them off. Then there are girls who are only allowed to go to university if they wearing a Hijab. If not for the religious beliefs, or threat of no further education, this is oddly similar to the western girls who ditch their compulsory school uniforms for casual clothes at school or hike up their skirts into a makeshift mini.

Not long after her return to Amman from America, Lama began hunting for work within the design industry. She now works part-time at the branding studio Syntax, and teaches design part-time at the German-Jordanian university.

Having noticed the education standards dropping in Jordan, Lama is keen to pass on her knowledge gained locally and from studying abroad, in addition to being a practicing designer. However there is still protocol that skews design courses towards program knowledge, rather than the conceptual work that Lama is keen to get her students working on. But with both her ongoing design work and her teaching, Lama's working on it.

lamakhayyat.com

Interview: Siobhan Frost
Edited by: Angharad Jones


Shawareb, Illustration on deck by Lama Khayyat. Image: LamaBurka, Illustration on deck by Lama Khayyat. Image: LamaReligious Stereotypes, Design by Lama Khayyat. Illustration by Jon Turner. Image: LamaReligious Stereotypes, Design by Lama Khayyat. Illustration by Jon Turner. Image: Lama