Day 14- Your Not So Typical Muslim Artist
I have always been interested in art from a young age. It was my dream as a young girl to be an artist. I was an artist before I became Muslim and have consistently throughout my life been a creator of art and pursued it in some form or another.
Becoming a Muslim changed my art in that I changed my work to more natural and pattern-based themes. I was drawn to the patterns and decorations used in Indian art and African art. I also like geometry but never felt the need to go too deep into it as I didn’t have much of an attraction to everything having to be lined up symmetrically. I like the idea of things just flowing naturally, although I highly respect the work of geometric artists.
When I became Muslim and was trying to learn the Arabic alphabet, I did have a little go at copying some calligraphy pieces into works of art. However, as an individual and being the kind of person I am, I like to ‘keep it real’ I couldn’t understand what I was creating when copying the Arabic calligraphy. I desperately wanted to learn the language but I soon realised that even fluent speaking Arabs found it hard to read many of the artist Arabic calligraphy pieces due to their complex designs. I believe this is something that should be left to those who understand- the Arabic calligraphy masters who have spent many years learning and honing their skills in order to create such amazing works of art. I didn’t see the point in someone like me a non-Arab trying to make art in a language that I didn’t understand and art that is so complex in nature when I could happily create art that just came natural to me. Art that I actually wanted to create due to my own personal ideas and interests. Surely that can be appreciated?
As a Muslim artist I also don’t have any desires (at this time at least) to draw or paint images of masaajid (mosques) around the world. I love the various types of architecture and the famous landmarks that many of them represent in the Muslim world but I have no desire to represent them in my artwork at this time personally. I can appreciate artists that do use their imagery to create art but that’s just not my thing.
So saying all this means that even though I am a Muslim, especially visibly so, when people ask me what I do and I say that I’m an artist it is automatically assumed that I do ‘canvases’ (in the Muslim community that I live in this mean Arabic calligraphy with the words but not limited to- Bismillah: In the name of Allah, Allah and Muhammad). When I was first asked do I do canvases? I thought it was a bit of a strange question because yes, many artists will use canvas to paint on although even for a painter it is not limited to that. So, when I said yes and started showing photos of my work, I was then asked more specifically don’t you do calligraphy? To which the answer was no. I also found that strange in the beginning but soon came to realise that being a Muslim artist ( at least in the community I live in) it is automatically expected that if you make art it must be either in the form of Arabic calligraphy or geometric style traditional Islamic art.
Although I have had many admirers of my art in the Muslim community, I often get told that my work would be even nicer if I added some Arabic calligraphy or Arabic letters to it. I seem to be able to get away from that even though being a convert of African Caribbean ethnicity I personally don’t relate to those things. I’m not saying that I couldn’t, I just don’t. I didn’t become a Muslim to dump my culture and become an Arab or Asian. Anyways don’t we have enough amazing artists creating such works?