Turning Over A New Leaf
Winter is seen as a time of dormant emergence. The leafless trees we have lived with for months now begin to represent a normalcy that will soon be overtaken by blossoms and the onset of spring. But before this, snowdrops and other winter flowers remind us that the beauty of nature is not lost and all exists in cycles, dying only to begin again. A new year is a time for all of us to renew intentions, vows, hopes and dreams as well as another opportunity to develop common ground with those of other faiths and cultures and develop a greater understanding of our shared stories. This is something that DOT Guild has been created to do with an ethos that I am very excited about.
Creating Space DOT guild: Developing Our Traditions
“A personal reason for being involved in DOT is to show my children that creativity is important, we are important and we have the right to do the same as anyone else.” – Juma Harding-Dimmock
DOT has grown organically since the initial coming together of a group of artists at a networking event in London
last spring. It was the idea of maintaining the momentum that encouraged the development of a guild where creatives could come together for a common purpose. The term DOT is an abbreviation for ‘Developing Our Traditions’ and also refers to the Arabic nuqta that has varying roles in defining the identity of Arabic letters but all letters are said to begin from this. In essence, this nuqta/dot defines the beginning process, the final result and all that lies in between, a beautiful metaphor for exploring journey, spirituality and purpose.
The founding trio is comprised of mixed-media artist Farah Soobhan, Graphic artist Juma Harding-Dimmock and Photographer, Isa Noorudeen. All were driven by a need to create a platform to support British Muslim artists and more importantly, create spaces for the British Muslim experience to be explored and promoted through artistic expression.
Farah Soobhan has always been passionate about supporting fellow creatives by providing a platform and encouraging the development of a shared experience.
She was inspired by the support system she witnessed between Muslim artists in France where they were supporting one another, exhibiting and performing together.
DOT are concerned about building a heritage for the next generation. To reclaim a prominence of Islamic Art heritage but with a modern slant that allows Muslim artists to explore more personal themes and expression. This in turn challenges established ideas about what Islamic art is and should be. Is it merely reconjurring of traditional methods or can it include new ways of thinking and a new direction that can choose to embrace convention or mark out new ways of creative expression?
“DOT primarily focuses on British Muslims, and this is fascinating because being a British Muslim enables us to showcase the work of people from such diverse backgrounds, welcoming people who have not only been born Muslims but those who have embraced the faith bringing multiple levels of cultural heritage and points of view, each person adding to our tradition, our narrative.” – Juma Harding-Dimmock
“At every opening night we are all brought to tears and we are all reminded again of how needed this is.” – Farah Soobhan
Although juggling this project with work and all that is involved in raising a family, Juma and Farah are great advocates of running workshops and teaching creativity to young people and an exhibition of the work of children and young people is in the pipeline as are exhibitions in Birmingham and Paris.
“Throughout history, the oppressed create the most moving, insightful thought-provoking art. So for me, I wanted to see what Muslim creatives are making. How are we coping, how are we reacting and responding?”
Juma Harding-Dimmock, who studied Fine Art at Central St Martins, felt that her creative process suffered when she became a Muslim. “I was given so many limitations and restrictions when I converted. I became overwhelmed and my art suffered. Rather than utilising this major spiritual transitional stage of my life, I could not find my way.
My work before Islam was heavily charged by politics and black history. But I lost who I was, and what was important to me.”
It was through networking with inspirational Muslim women creatives that she was able to find her feet and use her creativity as a way of exploring her own journey of spiritual development.
Juma believes that DOT is needed today as it is vital to “proving to none other than ourselves that we are much more than what we are portrayed be. Intelligent, insightful people who have a right to do what they love and be appreciated for what they do and who they are. Just like anyone else.”
DOT plans to build upon what they have started, to branch out further, so that their ideas can be experienced by more people and the sense of belonging, ownership and creativity can be shared with all who participate.
The Great Outdoors
Although it’s cold and the last thing on our minds is being outdoors why not do it just for the sake of it? Nature is one of the greatest reminders of God’s Majesty. Be a child again and marvel at the simple things…patterns in nature, the sounds of birdsong, and the formation of clouds. Or consider the golden ratio or Fibonacci spiral, both reflections for us of a far greater reality. If your setting is mainly urban, even modern architecture refers back to nature, even the modality of structures refers back to the unseen nature of atoms or chemical structures. I challenge you to see all things anew and to be grateful.
The Summer Exhibition is an annual event held at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London and showcases the work of budding artists and established creatives alike. It is an opportunity to show and sell work in one of the largest public art shows in Europe. The deadline for submissions is February 12th.
For more information go to https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/summer-exhibition