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courtesy of Vuse

Meet Rabab Tantawy, the artist bringing creativity to the Grand Prix 2021

As part of the Driven by Change initiative, Vuse, supported by McLaren Racing, give creative control of the livery to the Middle Eastern artist for the Abu Dhabi race

What’s the fastest moving artist’s canvas on Earth? Vuse, the number one global vape brand*, and longstanding collaborator McLaren Racing, might have a clue. 

In a world first, the design of McLaren Racing’s 2021 livery becomes a piece of original art for the Abu Dhabi race, with the work of emerging artist Rabab Tantawy appearing on a livery at this year’s Grand Prix™. It’s all happening as part of the expansive Driven by Change initiative, announced by Vuse, to give grassroots creative talent unique and industry-breaking opportunities in motorsport for them to showcase their work on a global stage.

Tantawy is an exciting emerging artist – born in Cairo and based in Dubai, her creative practice comes from years experimenting in the arts, includes both traditional and contemporary techniques, from oil painting to street art and spraypainting. With a playful tone and colourful aesthetic, her work focuses on themes of union, community, and heritage – pertinent, for the ethos and values that compound the Driven by Change initiative. The opportunity for Tantawy is also pegged as the first time a female artist from the Middle East has been given an opportunity of this kind.

The livery artwork combines the iconography of a McLaren Racing car with her striking Nubian Series in bright papaya and blue. Her Nubian figures wrap around the livery, representing togetherness, collective joy, and community – an inspiring message for this year’s Grand Prix, the motorsport industry, and the creatives who will follow her in the initiative.

“I believe that the best thing an artist or anyone who is given the opportunity to speak on a global platform today can do is to bring people together, to show the world that we are one, and we all want the same thing,” Tantawy tells Dazed. “Unfortunately, everything around us at the moment is telling us to fear the other, highlighting our differences rather than our commonalities or telling us that there is no way for us to advance together, that someone has to be left behind for us to win!”

She continues: “I believe that art, just like sports, has the power to bring people together with no hidden agendas. The beauty of working with Vuse as part of their Driven by Change initiative, supported by McLaren Racing, is that together, we can bring the worlds of art and elite motorsport together. Public art carries a message, art that everyone can see and enjoy together.”

Tantawy shares that her love of motorsport was first inspired by watching Brazilian racing driver and three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna. “It was Senna who got me hooked on F1 – his passion, his fearlessness, and his focus. I’ve lost count of how many times I've watched that documentary, but I was just drawn to him, the sport and the way he made it so relatable, and human with the way he reacted.” 

“Also, my son has raced on our local motocross track since he was six – he’s been doing really well and has even won a few championships!” she adds.

On the artwork used for the livery, Tantawy shares the original inspiration of her previous Nubian Series works, and how she has enmeshed them with the McLaren Racing livery – “This series is about the Nubian culture, the land where humankind originated, its people, the grace they exude, their tight-knit community and their strong bond that extends to include everyone they meet. I believe it is the way we should all be.”

Having expanded the work across 12 years, Tantawy explores human connection, community, and oneness with the colourful painted figures. “The intention is to show the viewer that we are all one in the same no matter what colour, shape, race or beliefs we have. I wanted to use this theme as we are now, more than ever, in desperate need of something that unites us rather than keeps us apart,” she explains. 

“Having the McLaren Racing vibrant blue and papaya colours to work with made it very enjoyable and worked well with the theme, as Nubians are known for the vibrant colours in which they paint their houses. Vuse is also about bringing together the creative community as one, with this idea of togetherness living at the heart of my work.”

Tantawy has worked with Vuse and been assisted by automotive media designer, Davide Virdis, for six months on the project to its brightly coloured, fast-moving fruition. She describes the opportunity as “a dream I didn’t even know existed”, “especially as it is something that has never been done before, having a piece of original art featured on a livery during a Grand Prix™ in the World Championship,” she says. 

“The opportunity has allowed me to showcase a piece of original art that means so much to me. The artwork is very relevant to my roots and where I come from, but it is also relevant to everyone else across the globe, so it is amazing to have an opportunity like this to spotlight my work and its message, so that they too can learn about the Nubians and how we can all be like them, one family, one community.”

Streetwear brand Undefeated was also engaged by Vuse to design the bespoke livery for the No.7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet for the 2021 Indianapolis 500. The collective themes of the project highlight the shared ambition to celebrate undiscovered and underrepresented creative talent with the motorsport industry as a stage and space for opportunity. Previously, Vuse worked with St. Petersburg’s artist Ya La’ford, who painted an IndyCar for the Vuse Design Challenge at the Firestone Grand Prix™ earlier in the year. 

Tantawy’s artwork will be featured at the final race of 2021, the FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2021, on December 12. McLaren Racing will race the livery featuring Rabab’s artwork around the famous final track of the season.

More grassroots creative talent over the age of 25 will be invited to follow in Tantawy’s footsteps in 2022, with the continuation of the Drive by Change Initiative. It will leverage multiple opportunities across elite motorsport for grassroots creative communities to showcase their work, providing them with unique access, mentorship, and collaborative opportunities that will champion their talent and work in a new arena. The programme is also supported by not-for-profit organisation Driven by Diversity, which raises awareness of the need for diversity and inclusion in motorsports. 

As Tantawy says astutely, the programme “will open doors for artists like me, who honestly had lost all hope in the art world, as everything in our world today is valued by numbers. Whether it is the number of followers or likes you have, the amount of money a painting sold for or how much a certain market values your work, it is all in numbers. This opportunity shows the world that it is really about the art itself and the message it carries, which is something you cannot put a monetary value on.”

“Vuse, in partnership with McLaren Racing, are bringing art into the motorsport scene and giving me – someone with no huge following or name in the art world – an opportunity to showcase my passion.”

To keep up with the story, stay tapped into Vuse’s socials, and expect more information on the Driven by Change initiative and how creatives can get involved next year.

Vuse is an alternative to traditional tobacco products that contains nicotine and is suitable for adult nicotine consumers. 

*Based on Vype/Vuse estimated value share from RRP in measured retail for vapour (i.e. total vapour category value in retail sales) in the USA, Canada, France, UK, Germany. These five markets cover an estimated 77 per cent of global vapour closed system NTO, calculated in June – July 2021.