Islamic Art by Moriam Grillo

“We exist, we are here, we’ve been here for a long time and you need to be able to see us.” Wasi Daniju, Photographer

Manifesting the Unseen

Manifesting the Unseen is an exciting initiative developed by curator and poet NaziaMirza. The main aim is to create a platform for Muslim women artists to be celebrated in society. It began as a discussion on the invisibility of marginalised identities in public spaces and why for many in the West, Islamic art remains a hidden treasure.

Mirza believes the arts should be for everyone and not just those who can afford it, therefore she wants us to provide as much as we can, for free, to our audiences. 

Bringing together, an international group of Muslim women visual artists, and an equally diverse group of Muslim women poets, Mirza aims to provide a free exhibition on contemporary Islamic art, free workshops on Islamic geometry, illumination and calligraphy as well as a series of events exploring the history and traditions of Islamic art.

 The artists involved share an interest in the unifying principles of Islamic art, its origins within the inner realities of divine revelation and its perfect balance of science, art and spirituality. Their work focuses on the essence of things, seeking not to replicate nature but to convey what it represents; revealing what is unseen until nothing remains hidden.

The works in Manifesting the Unseen aspire to reflect the infinite nature of God; the creation of the pieces becomes an act of devotion for some, and a reflection of faith for others. Through engaging with these themes, viewers are invited to contemplate the idea of oneness and how from unity all diversity emerges.

By supporting Muslim women artists and poets in the process, Manifesting the Unseen will enable them to create new work, develop their practice and share their work with wider audiences.

The nine artists involved work on a range of different mediums. Photographer Wasi Daniju is interested in increasing the visibility of African Caribbean Muslims and dispelling anti-black rhetoric.

Painter, Samira Mian is an educator focussing on geometric pattern sharing her expertise with online students in 56 countries.

Aziza Iqbal’s work is based on harmony and symbolism, a blend of Persian and Indian techniques; her painting includes a geometric pattern and floral motif.

 Textile artist Shaheen Kasmani is interested in surface design and textile pattern, using these to tell stories often silenced. The union of these creatives will produce a rich cultural exchange of ideas and artistic expression creating a contemporary fusion of traditional techniques placing them sensitively in the 21st-century cultural landscape.

“As Muslim women, we are tired of being reduced to the racist stereotypes seen in the media. Manifesting the Unseen is our chance to share the beauty of Islam’s artistic heritage in a project that is led by and features Muslim women artists in all of our talent and diversity.” Nazia Mirza – Manifesting the Unseen


Black & Muslim in Britain II

In celebration of Black History Month, producers Saraiya Bah, Mohamed Mohamed and Sakina Le Noir have released their second series of Black & Muslim in Britain a collection of anecdotal expressions based on the experience of place and belonging in the UK for members of the African Caribbean community.

 You may remember I featured this series last year. Not one to repeat myself, I found the second series even more inspiring and exhilarating than its predecessor. Being a first generation Black British Muslim, I know too well the feelings of isolation and rejection of living in a society in which the dominant culture is not your own.I can also relate to the experience of racism discussed by participants. Although Islam Originale is an all-inclusive religion based on earnest practice, equality and peaceful endeavour, there is now a movement within it that prioritises a nationalisticpersuasion over cohesion.

For me, Black & Muslim in Britain was an opportunity to be empowered by the shared experience. And although disheartening to know that others have shared similar negative experience based on cultural origin, I am heartened by the prospect that Black& Muslim in Britain enlightened others and enabled a more compassionate exchange amongst our community at large.

 “Please do not make my Islam reduced to one man and your racism to be absolved because you know that Bilal was black, and what?!”  Black & Muslim in Britain

Digital Installation Beyond Bilal

Inspired by the first season of Black & Muslim in Britain, master’s student Mustafa Brigg set off on a quest to explore Black History in Islam.

To this end, Beyond Bilal is a digital presentation and lecture series that aims to explore and uncover the deep-rooted relationship between Islam and Black History: from Black Prophets and prominent figures in the Qur’an to the unknown black Sahaba and scholars of the early generations, the history of Islam in Africa. It also explores the legacy of contemporary African Islamic Scholarship and its role in the international relations of the Muslim World.

Mustafa Biggs, a graduate of Arabic and International Relations from the University of Westminster.

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