At an exhibition event of my photography and calligraphy, one of the monitors asked me this question. It is a usual interrogation faces by anyone who engages in the public sphere wearing a Niqab: “Despite being an excellent artist, why you cover your personality?”. I replied to the amazed audience with utmost confidence: “I don’t believe as you normally do, that my personality confines to my face. My personality finds existence through my art, behavior, perspective, aesthetics and engagements”.
This is how I fell in Love with Art
Being the youngest child in the family of four daughters, I was given a chance to find a path of my own. My parents paid enough heed in raising a smart child rather than pining over my marks. Hailing from Mahe, Kerala I grew up in a picturesque little town with a bit of French flavour. My family relocated from Middle East to Mahe after my birth. My choices and tastes are thus clearly influenced by this place which was dearest to me from day 1. A place with a fantastic blend of myth and mystery, I’m proud to say that I live here, surrounded by adequate amounts of green and blue.
I attended Avila Primary School in Mahe, which gave me huge exposure to learning things mixed with fun. I loved to participate in activities, both academic and extra curricular, which helped me create quite a name. Mount Guide International, the school where I completed 10th grade from, has done a huge job in moulding me and improving my personality. Be it any family functions or hangout with friends, I was found with a camera in my hand, as it was my way of seeing the world and capturing moments as I want it to be remembered. My 12th grade studies were done in Excel Public school, where students are known for bagging chances to study medicine and other mainstream options, which were really not my cup of tea. All along my journey from school till now, I was fascinated by the wonders of art and how it has the potential to change things.
Camera’s wonderful Cosmos
I then slowly realized that I saw the world in a different angle. An angle which was left unnoticed by people. A quarter part of my vision came true when I chose multimedia for my bachelor’s at Farook College. Calicut is a foodie’s heaven, and that’s one thing I’m the most grateful for. One can also say that it’s the perfect place for hangouts. It gave me a platform to portray the world from my perspective.
Camera started to become my closest pal, and I captured moments that best suited my favourite topic- Nature’s visible-but-not-so-visible scenarios. Hidden parts of an attractive building, that one flower in the middle of a bouquet, etc. became shots in my camera and imprints in my heart. I’ve never been a fan of mundane things. Its the only reason why I’ve always been keen in photography. I was appreciated a lot for my photographs, but after I started learning about cameras, I understood that what I did was 0.1% of what was left to learn. The first camera that I got still remains one of my most favourite things and I am pursuing my love for photography ever since then.
Another leaf that I caught from the gust of wind that passed by me was calligraphy. Those lazy scrollings through Instagram bore its fruit one day, when my attention went to strokes and swirls that people used to write names. Arabic language has always been a wonder to me, and calligraphy in that language seemed like a beautiful piece of work.
My first attempt in it is a vague memory where i just tried to scribble something up with a pen,but the encouragement I got for the effort was so strong. I still remember that day when my sister bought me a set of calligraphy pens and I wondered what the use of that was. Little did I knew, I’d later be associated with it. With no prior knowledge in this field, I started imitating patterns and letters on paper. My friends became my first customers and there began a journey of unlimited opportunities.
Social media later became a great platform for me to learn more about calligraphy and get to know a lot of people in the field. I find products from either on-line shopping sites or stores in Calicut and Middle East. Now my work is even reaching overseas. I never intended to sell my work and make it a profession in the starting days because I knew I was just a beginner but the support is always immense.
This development of my work has reached in a position where I’ve come across better products for usage and utmost satisfaction on the customers’ faces. My favourite part of this is where I challenge myself to infuse names between various designs and shapes like helicopter, hot air balloon etc.
Islamic art is an act of Da’wah and one has to be careful while attempting it. Of course, the greatest gratitude remains to my dear family of customers, who has taken each and every challenging work of mine gratefully and has been forbearing with me. When I’m not engrossed in lettering, I find myself editing pictures and researching about digital designing.
My family has taught me to be grateful and place an identity for myself among the crowd. Being a Muslim girl and covering the face under a veil has always brought up stereotypical comments and anticipation from the people around. I have seen the frown in peoples’ face thinking how this young 19 year old girl shall address a crowd by just showing her eyes.
Even I have trembled enough times. But it’s the strength of faith inside me and the confidence to prove my identity that paved the way to happiness for me. If there’s one thing I want to say to the world, its about abolishing the popular opinion that veils prevent girls from enjoying life. I have attended several other events without failing to grab any opportunity that comes on my way to showcase my interests and myself.
Being a Farookian, competitions are always high, opportunities are also more and the love for art is always spreading. This place made me know myself better. This journey made me fall in love with art.
Photo and Calligraphy Courtesy: Siba Ashraf www.instagram.com/sibaashraf