I feel like muslim female artists get boxed in.
If you’re a women and you’re a Muslim and you’re an Artist , you have really exciting things that take place but I know Artists, they feel the same, they just get instantly boxed in. A small gallery or magazine will contact them and they'll say what sort of Islamic influence work have you produced, and maybe that Artist isn’t producing anything with geometry in it or a Nikabi women who’s got her breasts out 'oh radical', then ID magazine wants to have it on their front cover. I just feel like there’s too much of that boxing in and that really frustrates me, because I feel like Muslim women outside of being Muslim, have other things that interest them too and maybe they want to , I don’t know , bring that across without having to just be boxed into being a Muslim women.
It just so happens to be that this is something that is part of their practice , but they go to work, they’ve got a stethoscope around them, they're talking about gonorrhea ...what are you going to do? Link that with spirituality suddenly and do a geometric painting about it? And that’s what I mean , it’s really ridiculous sometimes.
And you know like normal stuff that we do on a day to day or like normal other things beyond just wearing the hijab,'my feeling as a hijabi women'; as lovely as all of that is - it’s so saturated and there’s such a huge Muslim community of women, surely we can’t all just be thinking the same thing all the time. I feel like it’s that Orientalism thing all over again, they just want to box you in.
.."there’s such a huge Muslim community of women, surely we can’t all just be thinking the same thing all the time."
Ok kl kl kl, let’s start that again...
Hi, my name is a Rahima , I’m an Artist and all rounded Creative, I’m also an Activist and the Co - Founder of a human rights organization called Restless Beings. We work with marginalized and voiceless communities across the world. A lot of that affects the way in which I work within my day to day activity. I used to work in research , my background is Korean History and organizing academic conferences so its been quite a change for me over the last few years of doing this . But this is something that I am looking forward to developing and becoming an Artist that I can express the relevant crises's of the world but also the things that I see that are beautiful and meaningful and how I can create a dialogue with that through my work. So as part of what I do as a creative is that I work with clients from all different parts of world , from different kinds of practices from interior design to painting on clothing to illustrations for children books.
Last spring when a company called AYWA, and it’s a company that I love and been following for a long time contacted me , the designer found me on Instagram and said we would like to collaborate With you , and he had collection of seven abayas and kiminos and asked if I would paint each of them, so I had to produce art on each of the abayas and each piece represented a certain part of the world, and the culture and some of the obvious things that we think of so they could be icons or architecture. I was able to collaborate with the designer that I really loved and respected and at the same time I was able to think of ways in which art and fashion are really interlinked aswell.
As a result my work was on a catwalk in Istanbul and again in London as well, it’s been in a capsule collection . The whole collection has now been sold, so its been ma sha Allah a successful project and it has meant that I’ve had more exposure.
I’ve combined my art and activism together and key things that have influence my work is the meaning of suffering, the spirituality and the fault culture that I’ve seen in the communities that I’ve met during my travels and its essential in the work that I do.
"I guess the organization - Restless Beings - became the vehicle for what we felt passionate about..."
So in terms of my activism, I was one of the Co - Founders of an organization called Restless Beings and I guess the organization became the vehicle for what we felt passionate about, which was how do we make a change for human beings without having to constantly drip feed money to them. And how can we make our contribution towards a fair world? So there was necessity to create an alternative voice. We started off as a blog and that was a decade a go and we are registered British charity and human rights organisation and the areas of our interest has been women rights, refugee rights and children rights but it's looking at the most vulnerable children, it's looking at the most vulnerable women, it's looking at the refugees that are the most unheard and its how can bring these things together and support these communities ; but in a way that attracts young people, its creative, its honest and transparent and I think that’s when Restless Beings was born.
"So there was necessity to create an alternative voice."
So I work with women's rights issues; in Kyrgyzstan we helped push towards government legislation, we worked with street children in Bangladesh - looking at children which have been trafficked. We worked with Rohingya refugees and among other refugee communities.
It’s very predictable to say I am passionate , it is literally what I live for. Something that I would like to look back at in 30 years and think I’ve made my contribution but I’ve been also been able to make some sort of tangible change that now the community can sustain themselves. I’ve been commissioned to do certain work which I feel is unethical and I’ve always kind of thought, nope, that’s not the client that I want to work with. So it impacts how I process my commissions aswell in my day to day life.
"It’s very predictable to say I am passionate , it is literally what I live for."
I would like my artwork to be acknowledged as just my art for what it is, and if it encourages someone to feel something about spirituality or Islam or about a suffering or a woman's feeling or any of those kinds of things, then for me that dialogue is exactly what I would’ve wanted to achieve.
"That dialogue is exactly what I would’ve wanted to achieve."
It was kind of drawing every single day , painting often as I could made me realize this is something that I want to be able to wake up and do . When you think about what you want to leave behind in this world and I want it to be the activism and the artwork that I do and so that’s kind of how I found myself within it.
If you’re interested in being an Artist do it soon as you can. If you’re a student or if you’re in a particular career , I mean it is very naive to say that you can just dive in , quit your job and become an artist. We have to be practical about these things . So figure out your finances , get yourself a part time job if you need to. Just pay for the materials and your bills and then just pursue it. Get yourself a good social media platform page. Find yourself a mentor if you can , draw every single day , share everything you’re sketching and drawing , find it within yourself what you want to share and what is your visual language and make is accessible and available online so people can reach you. So that is my advice.
"find it within yourself what you want to share and what is your visual language..."
Think I’m keen to see hijabi women wanting to define themselves outside of hijab , outside of what it means to be wearing the hijab and what the hijab means to them, and means to the world and how to negotiate a space wearing the hijab ; as exciting as that dialogue is , as much as we want to make that visible , we are more than that, we want more than that, we should be able to represent more than that. And there is so much going on here (the brain) and that needs to come out , its outside of the hijab or spirituality, its more about our essence as a human being , our skill sets , what have we learnt in 20 or 30 years of our lives, what are the skills we have developed and how can we put that across , whatever it is ; think outside of the box, think outside of out hijab and what it means to Muslim women and see that as part of our life and our spirituality.
I’m keen to see hijabi women wanting to define themselves outside of hijab... we are more than that, we want more than that, we should be able to represent more than that.
Find Restless Beings here: Restless Beings
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