My art is an amalgamation of printmaking, drawing and painting, and through it I deconstruct the essence and importance of meditation, prayer and Islamic practices in my life. My art is heavily influenced by my upbringing as I grew up around people of many faiths in an environment where tolerance and pluralism were protected. In the midst of the chaos, unrest and many examples of intolerance in the world today, I attempt to demonstrate through my work the peace and serenity that I obtain through Bandagi also called Zikr, which is a form of repetitive chanting that has been the basic inspiration for my work.
The process is key in all my work, which are text-based self-portraits or diary entries, sometimes including faces of those who have passed away, representing their eternal souls and my belief that they are resting and forever guiding those who remain. Furthermore, my feelings of loneliness and overthinking my own existence led me to draw out my thoughts and obsessively reiterate the same piece of text in 11, 33 or 99 layers. Multiples of 11 represent the Islamic prayer beads, the Tasbih and this meditative act made me believe more in God. The idea is born from Islamic belief, but every piece of writing is an adaptation of not only Islamic ideals, but also those that relate to every culture including concepts of peace, strength and strong self-identity. Although it may be irrational to some, the comfort of not feeling alone was above that of rational thinking. These pieces were usually worked on at the same time, everyday, establishing the cyclic nature of praying. New processes and experiments were introduced to confront and embrace, as life added new challenges.
The wor evolved over the years, as my life experiences changed from being a student to becoming an educator. As I continued to pray through my artwork, the marks started to represent the emotional, spiritual and physical metamorphosis that occurred while I prayed. This practice made me come closer to the belief that giving back in any form would allow me to attain spiritual enlightenment and peace. In praying for the world, I had started to subtly wish for my well being as well, being a little selfishly selfless allowed me to be there for others and to share my gift of art with people who were eager to learn. I told myself that this selfishness was not negative. In fact, if everyone were this kind of selfish, our world would be a better place. Practicing and working towards a way of better living is part of my journey and I imagine a journey that will last many years.
The process that I follow to create my art reflects the truth that no matter what we do in our lives and despite the many hardships and difficulties we must endure, if we do not attain true happiness, it is not a fulfilling life because in the end everyone's result is the same: we all pass on and the cycle of life repeats. No one continues to live because they achieved more. Just like the beads of the Tasbih, nobody knows whether one went through 11 layers or through 33 layers because in the end they all are one layer. This leaves us with the question: why do it? I would say because being able to leave this world at peace with oneself is the greatest gift of all.