“So many layers, of being a woman, a Muslim, being brown, how many different lenses are they looking at my work through. Can’t they just see my work for what it is and look at me for who I am" - Shaheen Kasmani
In this episode join artists Shaheen Kasmani and Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al-Lail discussing what it is like to be a Muslim female artist in 2017, as well as the positive and negatives of the current art scene and how we can move forward together and build a sense of unity and sisterhood. The conversation touches upon reclaiming the narrative of Muslim women, from those who have hijacked or imposed their own upon it, by telling their own stories with their artwork.
Sayyidah in Arabic means:
“lady”, “high status woman”, “chief woman”.
'Religion is a source of oppression', this is often repeated and emphasised in contemporary times. To see religion as s source of liberation is not only seen as odd, but also polemical. This is more so when Muslim women take religion to be at the core of their freedom, empowerment and creativity. Why is it that some people find it difficult to envisage Islam as a religion of justice and equality? Why do Muslim women feel guilty speaking through the lens of their religion? At the centre of this issue is the perceived lack of representation of women, present and historical. However, this is far from reality and it is the result of misconception and poor reading of Islamic history.
Islam, from its inception, was a result of a union based on companionship, love, justice and a mutually shared vision. This was embodied in Sayyidah Khadijah the wife of Prophet Mohammed, who was his main supporter and champion. A brief look at the core features of this relationship could awaken many to the true image of the role of the women in Islam. Indeed, the contributions of Sayyidah Khadijah was one of the very reasons Islam flourishes today as a worldwide religion.
Sayyidah Khadijah was an independent, rich, well-respected merchant who had been previously married. She also had children from her previous marriages. As a noblewoman, she enjoyed privileges in 7th century Arabia not afforded to many women and men alike, which gave her a cosmopolitan access to Yemen and Syria through her trading caravan.
Sayyidah Khadijah held a financial position that was much higher than that of her husband, the Prophet Mohammed, she had more experience in the world and was much older than him - Sayyidah Khadijah married the Prophet at the age of 40 when he was 25. Recognising in him the features of trustworthiness and truthfulness she employed him under her trading venture. It will come as a surprise to many, but it was Sayyidah Khadijah who chose to marry and proposed to the Prophet. In doing so, she assisted him financially and helped with his cause. Sayyidah Khadijah was also a great source of counsel and comfort to the Prophet. He turned to her before anyone else when the revelation came to him. That is, he sought her out first for guidance, help and confirmation.
Islam, at this early critical stage, was therefore defended and financed through with the fundamental help and support of a woman. Her vision, her choice and her endeavour together with a man she loved, respected and chose as a partner. She died defending her choice and suffered hardship for it.
The presence of Sayyidah Khadijah in the early days of Islam was pivotal and the Prophet never forgot his debt to her. We, as women, and not just Muslim women, should feel proud to have such a figure at the very core of a religion, which gave women the freedoms they never had, a movement which has social justice at its core.
But the lessons from the life of Sayyidah Khadijah should not just be a source of pride; we should use her example as a source of deep inspiration to become active and not be passive spectators as the world around us changes. We should also use the example of Sayyidah Kayyidah to step beyond the facile debates about Muslim women. The time has come for us to leave aside the trite arguments: Men Vs Women, Matriarchy Vs Patriarchy and Feminism Vs Status quo. Whilst these debates continue, issues relating to problems women will not be heard and addressed and solutions will not be found.
We can do this by highlighting how Islam is a source of empowerment of women, by using Sayyidah Khadijah as an example of mutual complementarity of genders, a vision of true human harmony when two strong and independent figures come together. This is what we need to highlight to all those who humiliate, disdain and point at Muslim women and women in general.
We are fighting here on two fronts: misinformed men and pseudo-ideologically driven women. The need to be vocal, driven and proud is paramount. To allow ourselves to be on the defensive, to see ourselves as inept or in need will be our failing. Let us stand up and take Sayyidah Khadijah by the hand in order to show the world exactly what a woman - what a Muslim woman - can achieve. For not only did she change history, she is the very reason Muslim women have the honour to speak of our choices within this religion with passion and pride.
"Don’t do anything you don’t believe in, do something you believe in and make it your superpower" - Romina Khanom
In this Podcast artist Romina Khanom shares some of her ideas behind her work and how Islam and culture influence her. She mentions how she uses grand patterns and geometry in Islamic art, to nature of God. The depiction of patterns through patterns, looping through one another embodies the spirituality, which lies at the heart of her work. The foundation of her art work is to celebrate Islam and the cultures her art exists somewhere on the edge between the contemporary and the traditional, between the flat and the three-dimensional.
Exhibition open from 14th Feb until 5th March.
The Crypt Gallery
For more information - https://www.facebook.com/events/762288197256118/
What unites us is greater than Trump and racist rhetoric! As the storm slowly erupts over America, and grey clouds gather over Europe and the rest of the world, a well-known phrase comes to mind: what unites us is greater than what divides us.
Following the Women’s March the day after the inauguration, Americans have once again mobilised to protest against Donald Trump’s ugly and divisive ban on Muslims from 7 countries: Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria.
What has struck me the most scrolling through the news and social media is the huge number of people who have turned out at the airports to protest against the ban, against racism and divisiveness and to support the refugees and immigrants trying to enter the country.
Some of my favourite images from the protests:
The photographs are not only powerful because they epitomise the revulsion and outrage about the ban but they do so in just a few often humorous words, using the simplest of images which stick in one’s mind. The nature of this artwork is also effective as it can easily be reproduced if required.
But what I consider to be the most powerful, and more importantly, empowering thing about the photographers, is that they were used as a tool to inform, vent thoughts and educate individuals. Images are the best way by which we can make the thoughts and feelings palpable to everyone who is at a distance.
The protests will also send a message to Theresa May. Amongst the sea of people taking to the streets expressing disgust in response to the ban is the lonely voice of our Prime Minister as she sits on the fence, refusing to condemn the racist ban outright. This is in stark contrast to the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, not forgetting the 1.5 million + people who have signed a petition, calling on Trump’s state visit to be cancelled. A post-Brexit Britain may need to be on good terms with America, but is this really the price that we’re willing to pay?
Silence is acquiescence. Now is the time to speak up, whether it’s with words, or through your art.
Are We Funny ? Satire is often an effective method to belittle ideologies that are toxic. No one would deny that a caustic piece of comedy can be a form of catharsis, a way to get rid of unpleasant tendencies we all have. Having acknowledged this, we must also realise that there is a time, place and form that satire should take in order to deliver positive results. Under the banner of 'freedom of speech' much has been ridiculed, humiliated, misrepresented and polarised for no other reason but in order to indulge prejudice, hate and misconceived notions. The subtlety of patronising satire can take forms that are insidious and damaging to self-image and community cohesion. We wish to briefly, in what follows, discuss a recent spoof by the BBC: 'Meet the REAL Housewives of ISIS'.
"You should be able to laugh at yourselves", "we are only criticising ISIS", "why can't Muslims be funny", "anyone who can't laugh is an ISIS supporter" and many other such lines are used to deflect any condemnation of egregious satire targeted at 'Muslim extremists'. No one denies that criticism of ISIS, ridicule of ISIS, protest against ISIS is necessary, rightful and should be supported. However, what should not be done in a time of populist rise and general xenophobic malaise, to enchant and ridicule a minority group indirectly in the name of targeting ISIS. The women featured in the video spoke in normal British accents, dressed in normal Muslim attire and were being associated with ISIS. Is it wise or even funny to make such an association when the UK and Europe are seeing a Far Right resurgence? Why resort to showing images of destroyed buildings in a war associated with countless tragedies ?
As Muslim women we should stand up against subtle attacks on us as weak, easily influenced and subdued. We should also as Muslims be able to create quality satire against ISIS; not one in which we feel targeted. All tools ought to be used to reverse this tide of criticism that has reached a point in which we are constantly told to look inward without ever being able to fix our communities problems. This has happened because we have failed to tackle the set of problems as Muslim women. As for the BBC spoof: it was wrongly timed, poorly executed, filled with cliches and patronising.
Furthermore, we believe that as Muslims we should condemn all such spoofs against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 'Freedom of speech' should never be used as a tool to fan the flames of stereotype, prejudice or hate. Such spoofs will only re-emphasise the duality of West/East, Us/Muslims and will play into the hands of those who we all wish to criticise; namely, ISIS.
It may be more apt for the BBC to apply for a job with the ISIS propaganda operations and leave public service. Is that statement funny ? I will leave it for the BBC to judge.
Meryem Meg is a multidisciplinary artist who explores indigenous methods of mark making through a diasporic lens. Her work is exploratory and self-healing; by living artistically the experiences of her heritage. She touches upon themes of fertility, birth and cycles within nature, offering a subconscious contemplative self reflection. In Meryem's work there is emphasis on repetition and rhythm infused with her sense of the 'urbanised everyday'. That is, her aim is to reclaim the given craft or spaces being used via the striking use of colour in her solo show.
In this podcast we are introducing our series and all the topics will be covering.
Unveiling the Art of Muslim Female Artists
Variant Space is a ground breaking collective of Muslim female artists who been brought together by their love of the arts. For the first time ever, Muslim female artists from around the globe have come together to narrate their stories and journeys through their art. We want to unveil the art of Muslim females in a world in which it is largely undiscovered and unexposed. We also hope that Variant Space can inspire other young Muslim females to pursue and develop their creative and artistic talents.
Our philosophy is embedded in our very name. It is influenced by the notion that there are differences in things which appear to hold similar forms. Variant Space is one tapestry, woven together by different threads, with each thread representing the individual artist as a unique and open-mined woman.
With their art, our artists shatter stereotypes of the Muslim woman, which have become entrenched throughout history. Variant Space provides a new and refreshing arena for the discourse on the Muslim woman, as well as a platform from which female Muslims can speak about their experiences through their art and reclaim control over their image.
Variant Space provides support and exposure to Muslim female artists by showcasing their work. Exhibitions, videos, a bi-annual magazine, our and open conversations are just a few methods we use to share the work of the artists.
You may have heard of Variant Space before and attended our exhibition ‘Cultural Bonds’ . If you are familiar with our work, you’ll see that we’ve undergone refurbishment and we’re back more creative and colourful than ever before, with a great deal planned for the future. We hope you’ll continue to be a part of our journey.
We would love to hear from you with your thoughts, so join the conversation and get involved.
Please follow our social media like and share !