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Loving and living Islam

“At the Living Islam Festival, a beautiful space where we can celebrate our faith and heritage, it was heartwarming to see that the reality of British Muslims is far from the narrative we are exposed to.” – Rosina Haujee Arts and Culture organiser

 

This summer I have been busy on a number of projects. One of the most rewarding has been a legacy project in conjunction with the Islamic Society of Britain to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I had the privilege of being one of six artists being showcased at the Living Islam festival in Lincolnshire.

The Living Islam Festival or LIfe takes place every two to four years at the Lincolnshire showground and has been running since 2002. The event is a project aimed at encouraging Muslim youth to feel empowered by their faith and to develop a strong and balanced Muslim identity. There are scouts and other enriching activities for children and young adults, and also inspiring talks, panel debates and activities for parents to indulge in.

My activity took part in the newly established Arts and Culture marquee and involved the facilitation of a mural, two in fact, in collaboration with visitors to the festival. It was a chance to encourage people to be collectively creative, and to unite hearts for one common purpose. Participants of all ages and all walks of life took part in the tile making project. It was a labour intensive affair that called on each individual to prime and roll out the clay before using bespoke cutters to forge their tiles.

To my surprise, and delight, the workshops were oversubscribed with participants having to wait patiently for a rolling pin to become available. It was rewarding for me to witness them taking the opportunity to engage in art, an activity which promotes positive mental health and wellbeing yet is greatly underestimated. They placed their pieces of clay on the framed board that would later house the finished mosaic. This afforded them the chance to see how the work would eventually develop as a contribution to a greater good. Here was an example of art being used for social action; to improve the wellbeing of those involved and to foster stronger relations with those slightly removed socially, culturally or religiously.

“This really was an amazing space – wish I’d had a bit more time to spend there!”  – Hifsa Iqbal

 

Clay is a sacred material. We are made of clay and there lies an intrinsic connect between it and us. In my workshops I share this revelation with participants and asked them to gently mould the clay in between their hands in order to make this physical connection. Many express that the clay has a grounding and calming effect and come away from the workshop feeling pleased by the experience.

The motivation behind this project was to create a piece of artwork that would stand as a legacy for the four days we collectively spent together to enrich and inspire our lives. In that time we were able to complete two mosaic murals consisting of over 1,700 tiles in two distinct colour ways.

The finished pieces will stand as a reflection of the harmony and beauty that unfolds when individuals come together with good intentions. And a testimony in the times of poor media representations of Muslims, that the beauty of Islam, as reflected through its art, is and will remain one of the strongest points from which we can remind the world of the majesty and splendour our religion  encapsulates.

“Islam and Muslims are not filled with hate – we are filled with love and compassion, kindness and generosity, patience and sincerity. All of which were evident in abundance at the Living Islam Festival 2016.” – Hifsah Iqbal, event organiser.

The Arts and Culture marquee at LIfe 2016 showcased a wealth of Islamic Art through the work of contemporary Muslim artists. It included  photography by Sara Russell and Rooful Ali, storytelling by Jumana Moon, geometric pattern presented by Saba Rifat, Toqeer Sethi offering poetry and song and myself showcasing ceramics.

The Islamic Society of Britain was established in 1990 with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of Islam amongst British Muslims and those of other faiths and no faith. In order to achieve this aim, ISB seeks to undertake social action work to improve neighbourhoods and the country for the common good.

for more info: http://www.isb.org

Grillo

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