• Yezarck

Day 98: Why Don’t Muslims Value Art? Part 1

(100 burpees done, of course)

Now there’s a lovely generalisation and please by all means correct me if I’m wrong.

This for me does not only apply to Muslim’s in general but people who come from an African or Asian (subcontinent) background. I will of course explain myself before someone tries to hang me out to dry and I am of course talking about my own personal experiences.

I have been making art my whole life, as a child I was really encouraged by my parents to make art but of course being from an African Caribbean background back then I was not encouraged to the extent that I would be able to make a living from it because lets face it, even now many people don’t understand what artists do nor do they think that an artist can make a living from their art full time. I think most full time artists still have this experience trying to explain to people how they make a living from art and being taken seriously by people who have little or no experience of the art world.

When I started really trying to take my artwork seriously a few years ago with the mindset that one day surely I would be able to make a living from it I was met with, of course a lot of scepticism from my community. Who is my community? Well I live in Newcastle upon Tyne where there is a very rich cultural environment and respect for art in the predominantly white British community, but unfortunately these are not the people who I have direct contact with on a day to day basis and live with locally. My direct community is mainly Asians from the subcontinent (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi), some Africans (Muslim and non Muslim) and Arabs from a variety of backgrounds.

So here’s me trying to start taking my art career seriously, developing my style and experimenting with various mediums etc. years ago when I was a lot more sociable (I had the time to be then) so there was a lot of opportunity for my art to be seen in the community and by them because I would have a lot of people coming to my house on a regular basis. My house is full of art, its literally a wall to wall gallery. People would come and they would see my art and comment. They would of course ask me if I made those artworks, comment on the colours, tell me how nice they were and then the two main questions would be:

1. Do you make canvases?

2. Do you sell them?

Now these two questions would always leave me in some kind of really uncomfortable feeling and for a few reasons. First of all, at that time the majority of my paintings were on canvas, so when someone would ask me if I do canvases, at first I was confused and didn’t know what they meant. I later came to find out that what they meant was if I painted Arabic calligraphy art with phrases like ‘Bismillah’, ‘Allah’, or ‘Muhammad’ etc. and to be honest I never really had. When I first became a Muslim I had a little dabble in that and had copied a couple of Arabic calligraphy words that I’d seen in some books as I thought they were beautiful but as I could not read Arabic or understand it I felt that this was not something which I connected with as an artist in a way of self expression. I also didn’t personally like the idea of using religious text, verses of the Quran etc to decorate my house with when I would much rather practice what my religion teaches than just use it as decoration. Now I’m not saying that people who decorate their house with such artworks don’t put the ideals into practice I’m just saying that I don’t feel it personally helps me practice my religion any better.

So no, I don’t do ‘canvases’ I would answer.

For me there are so many Muslims in the community who make such artworks so I didn’t see why I should also jump on the bandwagon just because I also happen to be a Muslim creative person.

Secondly, I really hated the question ‘do you sell them?’ because I did of course want to sell my art but I had my own insecurities and lack of confidence when it came to pricing my artwork for the following reasons:

1. I didn’t know how to price my artwork

2. I hadn’t really sold any artwork before

3. I felt uncomfortable asking for money for something I had made out of pleasure

4. I was worried that whatever price I told them they would think it was too expensive.

To be continued…

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