What is your Art?
“Everyone has their own view on what art is. For me, art is the concept of re-creation. The Universe is the ultimate creation. We as humans have been gifted the power of creativity which is the ability to re-create ourselves, to become creators. This is what I call art - to recreate the world through your work.
I began my art by building a platform for the creative community of New York, which includes many Burners. I wanted to give them a platform to connect, to unite and to spread ideas. To have fun, to make love, to make business; to interact. My initial art was to unite and inspire this community in the best way we could — through experiential events. The BABËL experience is my art.
As the community grew, my art evolved."
"On a personal level, I have started a music project under the name WAĪ which means ‘water’ in Hawaiian and ‘salutation’ in Thai. Music has always been my passion, and through it I’m finding a way to reach more people across the world. Music for me is the highest form of magic. It touches every soul. Every human can relate to it. With WAĪ my vision is to bring the love I have for music to a bigger audience.”
Describe more your relationship with Music.
“I’m a very big fan of the Bible as a cultural text. It’s full of tales, mysteries, myth and adventure. It’s epic. I am not saying that it’s meant to be taken literally, but as inspiration it works wonders for me.
When you open the Bible, the first passage reads ‘In the beginning there was the Word’. For me the Word is Music. Einstein explained that the only thing that exists is energy, and for energy to move it needs vibration. Music is vibration. The Word is vibration. Music is what moves everything. The original sound was “OM." A vibration was needed to get things from A to B. This is the purpose of music - to move - either in a harmonious way or a chaotic way, depending on the intention. We often forget how important our WORD is -- what we say, what we sing. Don Miguel Ruiz, a writer that I love, speaks about ‘The Impeccability of our Word.' He explains that our Word can either be white or black magic. Our words create our reality. They can spellbind a paradise, or a hell. In this sense, I see word and music as the same. Understanding this power is why I’ve decided to dedicate my life to Music."
How do you experience the connection between creativity and spirituality?
“For me everything is spiritual. I believe we are made of body, soul and mind. I believe that the body and mind are the tools of the spirit to recreate and become God again. Creativity is finding within ourselves the godliness to create like God has created. To honor God by becoming like Him. When the Bible says that man was created in the image of God, my understanding is that creativity is the gift that God has given us - to create like Him. To continue the legacy of creation and to honor our own divinity through creation. So personally, I don’t see any difference between spirituality and creativity. These endeavors are what brings the most joy and the most pain to people. It’s the path to become who you really are - through your own creativity. To create YOURSELF."
When did you first realize that this is who you are - can you recall a time when it dawned on you that this was your direction?
“My mother was a reporter when I was growing up, so I had the privilege of traveling the world with her. I lived in many parts of the world from South America to Europe, but I had never experienced anything like Burning Man. Burning Man has been a truly transformative experience. I discovered the power of creativity. I saw how it brought people together. It’s difficult to develop creative projects alone. You need help - from printing, painting, building, to moving equipment, etc. From the creative spirit comes collaboration - you need others to be able to create. From collaboration comes the community. The idea is to work together and construct a way to help each other, a way to live a like-minded existence.”
So was Burning Man an awakening?
“Definitely the start of it. Every time I go to Burning Man, I learn more about myself, about art and about human connection. What blew my mind is how art and music bring people together in a way I had never seen before. You can make long-lasting friendships with someone that you spent only a few days with — why? Because you struggle together and ultimately need each other to get things done and that is very bonding.
When I first moved here I realized that NY is a little bit like Burning Man. You have the best creatives coming from all over the world and often alone without their family. They are full of dreams. They want to create but they struggle doing it on their own. So I thought, let’s unite these creative people, let’s bring them together and create a platform where they can express themselves and build amazing relationships.”
Are you aware how much you’ve inspired others?
“My team and our collaborators - have had the chance to touch many people. We’ve had that honor. We’ve seen very beautiful stories, from people falling in love, to people finding a purpose, to finding a job - we’ve heard crazy stories and witnessed beautiful moments of connection. People open themselves up to having a different experience than the regular NYC nightlife. By coming to our events they agree to open up and discover people from other walks of life. They have done the job themselves - they’ve inspired themselves. They’ve been brave enough to join the fun. Each person who has worked at BABËL has contributed tremendously to this magical community. Magnificent in the diversity, in the potential to inspire at large. We have many decision-makers and influencers who can cause change in their own communities, companies and even families... That’s always been our goal - to inspire and to infuse this ethos into everything they do.
Who was your first real teacher?
“My first real teacher – my number one teacher – has has always been my mother. My mother was a feminist journalist with very strong French convictions. She has inspired me a lot throughout the years by helping me discover the world, music and many different cultures. Unfortunately, she has gone through a lot of hardships and suffered tremendously due to health issues. But somehow she managed to stay strong. I look up to her for this. I’ve endured many things which have grown my compassion and understanding of spirituality because they have forced me to ask the question - Why? Why does someone need to suffer? Why do we need to suffer? It’s unfair — that’s what I thought. When my mother became very ill, I started to ask myself the meaning of life and death. Her journey also brought me to many places around the world. I took her to John of God in Brazil - one of the greatest healers alive today. His home is a city where people dressed in white wait to be healed and miracles happen every year. I’ve seen things through my mother’s suffering that I would never have accepted or begun to believe otherwise. It has opened me up — my heart and mind. Frankly, my mother has been the greatest teacher of my life because through her I’ve come to understand that we have no control of anything. How important it is to be humble, compassionate, and to surrender to existence with the least amount of resistance. I’m still learning every day and struggling with my mother’s health — it’s been more than 15 years now that she has been in and out of the hospital and countless brain surgeries, but with every surgery has come a deeper lesson. Through her suffering I’ve been able to know myself a bit better.”
Has your mom been able to take it the same way?
“When you are in tremendous pain for a long time, it’s difficult to keep your sanity. It’s very difficult. I wish her the very best and I hope she will get better.”
At life's darkest, where do you find hope?
“Music. An analogy that I like to remember goes; ‘There’s a bird with two wings to rescue you in the hardest and darkest times in your life. One wing represents laughter. The other wing represents music.' When the pain is too much that you can’t laugh, the only thing left is music. If you find the right track, it can, for a moment, cheer you up. It can bring you to a higher place. That’s how it works for me. Nature also helps me find release. It’s where I feel the most at ease and at peace — whether it’s in the forest or by the beach. It’s where I retrieve my sanity and strength.”
You’ve had a big impact on many people thus far, but down the road, what kind of impression would you hope to leave on the planet?
I have been helped by so many people along the way, from my family, friends, complete strangers, to this beautiful community that keeps inspiring me. Personally, if I can leave this planet a little more peaceful, a little more harmonious, with a message of unity and love - that would be great. Coming from a diverse background – being half French, half Tunisian, having lived in various countries, studied different religions and having the chance to meet people from all around the world – has engrained in me the notion that we are one. That it’s our differences which strengthen and unite us. If I can help spread this message, that would be a great achievement.
My grandmother’s home was occupied by the Nazis. Until she died she would look under her bed to be sure no Nazis were there. A teacher I loved in High School - a crazy boarding school I attended - had all his nails pulled out by the Gestapo. I’ve seen the sadness of ignorance and racism. What’s happening in America today brings up a lot of healthy anger. It’s a painful step back from the work done by the powerful couple leaving the office. When I see the incapacity to understand that we all share the same blood it stirs a lot of turmoil in me and saddens me deeply."
In the current political climate the term "Healthy Anger" makes a lot of sense.
“One of my heroes and greatest inspirations is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He achieved what very few men have managed to do - to lead a people who were badly oppressed by government and society. He managed to lead in a peaceful way, people who were rightly filled with anger and frustration. His message today remains current and impeccable. We must keep him as a beacon of light in the coming months and years. Times like these are a calling to stand up and speak our truth. The truth that divisiveness will lead us nowhere. It has never worked and will never work. We can try as long as we want to divide and put people against each other, but it will never succeed. A favorite MLK quote is “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” We need harmony with each other, and we need harmony with the environment. It blows my mind that this is ignored by half the country. It’s a mystery to me. It’s our responsibility - the state of the planet for which we leave our children.
We are the owners of our destiny. We need to take ownership.”
If you could go back to when you were a child and whisper some advice for the future into your own ear, what would you whisper?
“Have as much fun as you can, while you can, because you will have a lot of work ahead of you. So play and discover the world. Look at the stars, look at the flowers. Look at the beauty of the universe and take your time.”
As the founder and creative mind behind BABËL, Waël brings a fresh perspective to community building, entertainment & nightlife with experience-driven events that are at once transformative and spellbinding.
A dreamer and a seeker at heart, Waël's wanderlust and appreciation for diversity have moved him to multiple countries across four continents (South America, Africa, Europe and North America). Waël loves connecting with people of all stripes and colors. Inspired by his experiences at Burning Man, Waël is now drawn to the world's leading cities to fulfill a vision: to build a creative community of open souls from diverse cultures and tribes united through the power of music, creativity and the pursuit of magic.
About BABËL https://vimeo.com/152412740
Collaborations, the ART of BABËL: https://vimeo.com/190106398
BABËL philosophy: https://vimeo.com/196676323