In The Spotlight

Munira Mendonca is an American artist who first began working with leather in the late  1970’s whilst living in a small village in southern Spain.  Mendonca evolved as an artist at a time when the political backdrop of Spain was redefining itself after the end of 36  years of rule by the dictator Franco  Bahamonde. Spain was experiencing a new freedom of expression and a change of direction, a reality that was reflected in Mendonca’s own life.  Mendonca was living amongst a group of artists and  artisans and recalls people who were searching for  something new in their lives. Before long, Mendonca  along with others in the group took the shahada and  became Muslims.  But it was not until 1995 when Mendonca attended an  exhibition in Córdoba, Andalusia that she began making  the calligraphic leatherwork for which she is now known.  Andalusia is a region in Spain renowned for its carved  leatherwork known as Cordobanes. So inspired was she  by the quality of craftsmanship that she began to teach  herself the technique, developing a greater understanding  through her teacher, Diego Mariscal.  Using a mix of ancient embossing styles and modern  polychrome techniques Mendonca has produced a range  of work that displays the qualities of a bygone era.  Looking at her work one is struck not only by the level of  detail but also by the antiquated quality it exudes.  Her pieces, made from naturally cured cowhide, resemble  traditional leatherwork produced in the late 9th and early  10th century during the rule of Abdurrahman III, a time  when the craftsmanship of Andalusia was at its peak.  Mendonca has done well to keep this traditional craft  alive. It is something she is very grateful for as well as the  fact that her son has joined the family business.  “I had always dreamed of one of my children taking over  the business and little by little it is becoming a reality.  One summer after finishing university, my son Hamza  began working in the workshop and has never looked  back. He as well has such a passion for leather. I am so  very grateful!” – Munira Mendonca


The Peace Garden

The perfect place to engage with art at this time of the year is The Peace Garden that runs alongside All Saints Church in Luton. The brainchild of Reverend David Kesterton, this once derelict site now houses the Peace Mural commission by Luton Council of Faiths which was made and decorated by members of the local community. (islam today August 2016 issue 38) The garden is open all week long and is a perfect place to reflect quietly and contemplate whilst admiring the detailed drawings of local children. This verdant space is a testimony to the cultural mix of residents who populate the area and the art, confirmation of how good community relations are an important feature of this town.


The Peace Garden
All Saint Church Shaftesbury Road


My Favourite Things

As Maria concurs in ‘The Sound of Music’, these are the things making me happy. Engaging with Art is an enriching experience and taking part in creative endeavours a vital part of our wellbeing. The first piece I would like to share is from an installation by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar. Entitled
‘Whole in the Wall’, the installation consists of a concrete wall 2.5 metres high and a series of recreational objects made from the same material.

All are made from fragments of the actual separating wall near Ramallah.
The opening in the wall, which visitors are invited to climb through is shaped like the map of Palestine. The objects – balls and football shoes – point to the fact that many playgrounds were affected by its construction. This is a favourite of mine because it recalls the plight of the Palestinian people, giving voice to their call for justice on the world stage. I am impressed by Jarrar’s adept creative expression and how it conveys the complexities of his native land so succinctly.

watch on YouTube:


Do Try This At Home
Colouring in…..

Yes, adults’ colouring books have been a popular addition in bookshops for some time. And yes, they are known to help us destress
and feel better. But do you know why? According to American psychologist Ben Michaelis, colouring is as beneficial for you as meditation. Not only does it help you to connect with yourself, but it also encourages a sense of calm and focus because it stimulates the parietal lobe in the brain which is
connected to our sense of self and spirituality. He also says there is evidence that as a repeated activity, colouring has a calming effect on the amygdala, the brain’s fear centre, which processes emotions and stress.

Colouring is also an autotelic activity, meaning it is purposeful and rewarding in and of itself. Such activities reduce stress and anxiety while improving
concentration and self-confidence. But aside from all of this, colouring has a simpler benefit. It allows us to engage our child self by recalling our first experiences with colour and art making. In doing so it encourages us to reconnect with feelings of wondrous oblivion and unlimited potential.
If you would rather not buy a colouring book, draw a series of circles or amorphous shapes on a blank piece of paper with a pen or pencil. You could even draw around your hands or the base of an object, perhaps allowing them to overlap. Now enjoy your chance to colour and see how it makes you feel.




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