Art by Moriam Grillo

Talking art

one to one

“Art is communicating with each other. Art is a way to unity” – Ladan Razeghi

One month ago, tucked modestly away within the grounds of the Islamic College in Northwest London, an Islamic art exhibition took place. Curated by the current head of marketing, Ladan Razeghi, the presentation was developed with the intention of celebrating Islamic aesthetics, a topic covered in both bachelors and masters degrees in Islamic Studies.

There were 36 pieces of art on display from a range of disciplines from established and emerging artists. Amber Khokhar, whom I featured recently, had several paintings on display. Moving away from her traditional painted tiles, Khokhar chose this exhibition to present new work, a theme in keeping with Razeghi’s wish to showcase Islamic Art in new and invigorating ways. Razeghi was keen to explore and represent new versions of this art form by encouraging artists with modern and conceptual ideas to take part.

Razeghi, who exhibited five pieces in the exhibition, regards herself as a social activist, saying her own artwork is influenced by current affairs. She feels that art is a very important tool, not only because it allows her to speak to people in a conceptual way and share ideas, but also because it is a way to express personal feelings she may not be able to convey in other ways.

I am very glad to see a move toward a reworking of how Islamic art and creativity is being explored and expressed. For some time it has felt to me as though this creative endeavour is simply a rehashing of established ideas. Razeghi has carved out a new path and hopefully a new beginning of Islamic art in the twenty-first century. The exhibition was such a success it was extended until the end of May. Watch this space for the next call for entries.


My Favourite Things

 One of my favourite things is poetry, especially that of Maulana Jalal Ud-Din Rumi. As a teenager, writing verse helped me overcome the challenges of my youth. As an adult, metaphysical poetry became a creative way to reflect on the complexities of life, offering me opportunities for introspection and self-improvement.

A Star Without a Name

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,

it easily forgets her

and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,

then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light

and work your way toward wisdom

with no personal covering.

That’s how you came here, like a star

without a name.  Move across the night sky

with those anonymous lights.

(Mathnawi III, 1284-1288)



Shamsia Hassani

 “I want to colour over the bad memories of war on the walls, and if I colour over these bad memories, then I erase war from their minds.” – Hassani

Voted one of the top 100 global thinkers by FP in 2014, Shamsia Hassani is a woman of many talents. A Fine Art lecturer at the University of Kabul and associate professor of sculpture, Hassani, is now predominantly known for her graffiti street art, a means of expression she uses to conceal the effects of war on the street. By sharing new ideas in her imagery, Hassani plants new memories like seeds in the minds of those who view her art.

Hassani was introduced to graffiti by the British Street art activist Chu who ran a week long workshop in the outskirts of Kabul in 2010. Creating new ways of expression in distant lands, Hassani is using art to rewrite history by countering stereotypes.

Hassani has also been shortlisted for the Art Raker Award, a prize set up by a voluntary arts organisation which promotes visual arts projects that influence how we understand, engage and respond to violent conflict and situations of violence.

Because Hassani’s art is more about reconciliation and social healing than reacting to social ills, her graffiti is unlike that of many of her contemporaries in the west. Instead, her work is dreamy and genteel, aspirational even. It uses symbol and metaphor to weave a story often very far from reality but which at the same time keeps both feet on the ground and offers more wholesome ways of thinking.



Key to the Kaaba

Made in the Arabian Peninsula in the Mamluk style

As the Hajj approaches and Ramadan moves on, this is the time when permission to perform the pilgrimage is often repeated in our duas.

This key which unlocks the Kaaba was made in 1340 and gifted to visiting rulers of the time, giving them permission to access the sacred precinct, by way of metaphor.

The key is a symbolic offering which reflects our utmost worldly desire as we continually turn our attention towards it through our lives.


The National Gallery

Filled with iconic art serving as historic documents of western culture, the National Gallery is an interesting place to spend the day. Paintings are a great example of how we once used symbol and metaphor to convey a deeper meaning, something we as Muslims have lost touch with.

Did you know there are over 100 paintings depicting the narrative of Hazrat Maryam (a), a testimony to her importance beyond the boundaries of faith and culture?


Do try this at home

Art making really can be therapeutic and help us feel better about our experiences. Engaging in art connects the right and left sides of our brain and gives us the opportunity to resolve past issues in present time. This happens because the subconscious is expressed through creative endeavour, helping us to articulate what may be difficult to convey verbally.

With a plain piece of paper, draw or paint a mountain and a valley. The mountain represents a time when you were happy, the valley, and a time of challenge or sadness. Add elements that reflect specific events as well, such as a scribble to reflect feelings of confusion, or the sunshine to represent optimism.

We live our lives in duality. So experiencing ill health or sadness, for example, is essential to truly understand and appreciate good health and happiness. Your creative expression will also reflect how you have journeyed through life, giving you an opportunity for self-improvement or further self-development.






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