Why She’s Interesting: The Sudanese-born Elgemiabby has a well-trained eye for structure. Appointed the Designer in Residence for Cleveland Foundation Creative Fusion 2019, her acclaimed recent design of Ohio City’s Riverview Welcome Center featured an installation of 250 portraits of individuals who live and work near Irishtown Bend.
Building Blocks: In Sudan, women are architects of their villages. Elgemiabby built huts in her neighborhood. “I mostly used mud, and I sure did learn a lot about how to build a structure that stays standing.”
Sacred Space: One of Elgemiabby’s backyard creations stands out in her memory: a discarded air-conditioner box where she would hide forbidden books that weren’t permitted in Sudan such as Season of Migration to the North. “I called it ‘The Library.’ It was probably the smallest library in the world.”
Ride Sharing: Elgemiabby embraced a nontraditional approach to researching Ohio City’s culture. She drove for Uber and Lyft in the neighborhood to get one-to-one contact, and later interviewed 221 people. “I would ask where they would go to eat and learned they would have to go four miles from their house to afford a meal. These conversations informed this work.”
Building Joy: It’s not Cleveland’s soaring skyscrapers, such as the Terminal Tower or Key Tower, that most please Elgemiabby, who instead favors the more open spaces such as Public Square. “Public spaces and plazas have representation of what the city is, where people come together. Traffic, people and buildings come together to meet in a special moment.”
Evening Hours: Elgemiabby finds her peak creativity between 3-5 p.m., an “in-between” time that she relishes. “Those hours are a space between when people are quiet, but before the end of the day when things erupt. It’s perfect for me.”
Elgemiabby launched her own consulting and design studio in 2019 called Elmalaz, which means “the ultimate space.”
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