Covid-19 has had, and continues to have dire social and economic impacts on the arts. But, this darkness has fostered a renaissance as artists experienced radical changes to their creative practices and found new ways of working. As supporting Muslim artists is integral to the Islamic Museum of Australia’s mission, the exhibition is being presented during an important time as the world turns to the arts for solidarity, expression and entertainment more than ever before.
Responding to personal feelings or events, artists explore spirituality, isolation, conflict and nostalgia through an impressive catalogue of painting, digital design, calligraphy, photography, installation and video. Experimental and reflective, the shortlisted works uniquely capture shared experiences to which we all have a personal connection.
For the third consecutive year, the Islamic Museum of Australia welcomes the fruitful collaboration with La Trobe University and acknowledges their generous sponsorship of the Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize.
Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize Recipient
The Crooked Narrative, 2021
Collograph print on paper
85 x 60cm
Fatima Killeen is a Moroccan-born artist with numerous accolades to her name. She currently resides in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory where she creates paintings, collages and prints. Her work has been exhibited in over 60 solo and group exhibitions with residencies in Australia, Jordan and Morocco. In 2017, Fatima received the International Honour Award for Moroccan Art and Culture, and the Australian/African Award of Excellence in 2016. Acquisition highlights include the Australian War Memorial, the Australian National University, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the National Museum of Australia and the Islamic Museum of Australia.
The manmade grenade was designed with the pomegranate in mind. The word grenade is based on the French word pomme-grenade which means ‘hand grenade’. Its interior features tiny pellets of shrapnel which visually mimic the seeds found inside the fruit. The surface of this explosive armament also resembles the outer skin of the pomegranate when it dries. Yet, the pomegranate is also a symbol of life and fertility, and is stated as sacred in both the Bible and the Quran. The juxtaposition of the destructive weapon and the fruit is a reminder of our connection to nature in search for peace and love. The scarlet heart shape in the image symbolises the tension between the memory of old blood and old feuds with the desire to establish a common ground of co-existence in our conflicted societies. Shades of blue in the background represent collective memory and non-aggression.
For Fatima, the realm of nature provides a generosity and an immense divine beauty as it is an acknowledgment of God’s work on earth. As our existence is brief and transitory, Fatima believes it ought to be a commitment to peace on earth.
Facebook: Fatima Killeen
Australian Muslim Artists Art Prize supported by:
People’s Choice Award Winner
Our Lockdown Days, 2020
Mysha Islam has been photographing since 2010. She migrated to Australia from Bangladesh seven years ago. Mysha is a self-described storyteller with an ability to capture universal narratives that transcend cultural and geographical boundaries through common subjects like everyday objects, people, and natural light. Her works have been featured in international publications and have been exhibited globally. Mysha is a school teacher and mother to three children; parts of her identity which also inform her art practice.
On 24 March 2020, the Victorian Government announced that it would be shutting down non-essential services to manage the spread of Coronavirus which arrived in Australia only eight weeks earlier. This marked the start of a long period of lockdowns. Although these were experienced to different degrees right around Australia, Victorians were subjected to strict stay-at-home orders for four months, from June-October 2020. For Mysha, being in lockdown helped her to appreciate the value of spending quality time with her family. She began documenting her days at home and compiled these photographs into the Our Lockdown Days series. The artist says, “remote learning wasn’t easy, but my kids showed patience with the new system. They learned at their own pace with no peer pressure and became creative at playing with the limited resources they had. Eid was different than usual, but we felt grateful for the things we had. We learned new skills such as knitting, and made baby toys and a beanie. And, finally, we were blessed with a healthy newborn. Now, we are patiently counting the days to reunite with our families overseas.”
Facebook: Mysha Islam Photography
Butterflies Don’t Lie Down, 2021
Antique Japanese tea ceremony felt, hand-cut and hammered tin sequins, laser cut Perspex sequins, synthetic fur and Duchess satin
162 x 80 cm
Soraya Abidin’s textiles materialise the in-between spaces within the bi-cultural binary. Resonating with the tensions that exist in this realm, Soraya uses vintage Asian silks collected from Australia and Malaysia to address cultural misconceptions often experienced by bi-cultural people. At the same time, for Soraya, this is a space where there are no rules to be broken and cultural boundaries can be traversed. Soraya’s techniques include freestyle embroidery and metalsmithing, which she uses to craft whimsical and ornate wall motifs that can be strangely uncanny, yet visually pleasing. Her works have been exhibited in Australia and internationally.
The colossal wings of this butterfly are constructed from an antique Japanese tea ceremony alter mat. When the artist found the piece, it appeared very tired and faded from years of performing its ceremonial duty. Without understanding its condition, Soraya sought to renew the piece by submerging it in an intense bath of dye. Like any woollen fleece, the fibre resisted and required soaking for some days to so that the colour could penetrate and be absorbed into the layers of felted wool. After rinsing, the artist held the felt to the light, which highlighted the textile structure’s fragility. Like any felted textile, the light shining through showed its vulnerability. Cutting the textile and piecing it back together imitates the strengthening veins system of a butterfly wing. Worldwide, the light shining through the flaws of human existence shows us, we, too, are as delicate as disintegrating insect wings. Butterflies don’t lie down and, collectively, neither should we.
Heaven on Earth, 2021
Digital artwork, production-grade print
110 x 62cm
Abid Abouloukme sees everything as a canvas. His childhood passion for art has evolved into a creative career spanning more than 20 years, with notable collaborations including American hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, as well as some of Australia’s largest corporations. He uses different digital tools to create immersive artworks presented on a variety of platforms. For Abid, art should be an all-encompassing experience: visual, tactile, soulful and spiritual.
This artwork is accompanied by a poem titled Heaven on Earth, written by the artist:
As the sun sets on a hot summers day, a balmy breeze gently sets in. The sound
of joy fills the air, with children laughing
while others pray.
In a moment of peace, with nothing to disturb
lives a group of humble people who call it
their ‘heaven on earth’.
This is Palestine.
Facebook: David Abouloukme
Blended Wonderful Emotions, 2021
Oil on canvas
40 x 40cm
Fida Carrideo creates colourful canvases inspired by her late uncle. Reminscent of the Impressionists who painted outdoors, as well as Abstract Expressionist action paintings, Fida’s heavy applications of oil colours suggests that her canvases are created unconsciously and spontaneously in the moment. They also emphasise the physical act of painting itself as an essential part of the finished works. As Fida is greatly inspired by trees and nature, her careful and intentional use of the paint knife evokes a deep respect and adoration for her subjects. Australian Muslim Artists 2021 is Fida’s exhibition debut.
This oil painting illustrates the artist’s dedication to the garden. The application and arrangement of colours are pertinent to this work. Fida says, “Using only palette knives and spatulas to move oil paint on the stretched canvas, I began to build depth, to build texture, and then I waited, applying and nurturing thick, heavy, lush layers of French Ultramarine, blended with Mauves, hints of Titanium White and Golden oil paint, only then to be woven together with a harmonising Green.
My intent of creating and painting this piece is to connect to the human heart with oil colour. I have used techniques that I found so wonderfully relaxing by mixing and blending hues and tones of each tube of oil paint I had. This art piece unifies colour, technique and texture to bring forth a beautiful balance, leaving an impression of vibrancy with all three elements.
Blended Wonderful Emotions – an abstract that shows all the imperfections – catches moments that expresses all the warmth, the storms surging after hurts occur within us, and it’s where we feel safe in the love that sings inside our hearts.”
Charcoal on paper
56 x 76cm
War, poverty and racism are topics Marwa Charmand takes comfort in addressing. Based in Western Sydney, New South Wales, Marwa creates confronting drawings and paintings that depict society’s worst realities. She believes art is a medium that should be used to communicate strong messages of truth in a world where media platforms censor, twist, and shape stories to attract a particular audience. Her cultural background has also had a major influence on her art career. Marwa has exhibited in numerous exhibitions, including No Added Sugar in 2011 at the Casula Powerhouse and VIVID Ideas Sydney 2017.
The Xinjiang Ughyur Autonomous Region in China’s far west has a long history of discord. As a succession of dynasties and empires have vied for control over all or parts of the territory, the ethnic Muslim Ughyur population have been subjected to de-Islamicisation and displacement. The region has had brief periods of autonomy, but came under Chinese rule during the 18th century Qing dynasty, and later the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Since this time, the Chinese government have viewed the Ughyur’s Islamic faith as ‘extremist’ and their desire for independence as a separatist risk. Social commentators have observed that the government uses these perceived threats to legitimise its discriminatory policies and human rights violations against Ughyur people. These have included banning Muslim civil servants from fasting during the month of Ramadan, illegally detaining Ughyurs in internment camps, forced labour and restricting travel, among other policies. Currently, there is believed to be over 1 million people detained in detention camps, with over 500,000 children taken away and having no contact with their families. Through this artwork, Marwa seeks to question that why, in a society that is quick to depict Muslims as evil, there is no coverage and outrage when the evil is committed against them?
The Whirling Dervishes, 2021
Acrylic on canvas
92 x 92cm
Hasina Chowdhury’s works attempt to reconcile feelings of everyday otherness. Having migrated to Australia from Bangladesh in 2007, Hasina seeks to represent the social and cultural complexities of the migrant female experience. Through her paintings, Hasina aims to initiate a discourse around the confusion and insecurity of existing within this intercultural space, and the way this impacts the interactions with her surroundings.
This acrylic artwork is the artist’s quest towards understanding the divine. On a deeper level, it’s an attempt to understand the journey, or process of surrendering to the divine. The artist says, “I have always been fascinated by the idea of Allah, God, the creator. I repeatedly ask myself, ‘Who is Allah? Why did Allah create us? And how can I find Allah’s blessings?’ I believe in the ultimate divine, which is why I believe in surrendering to Allah.”
Facebook: Art Mita
Dolls of War, 2021
Acrylic paint on paper, pasted on linen and sewn together
40 x 50cm
Mirela Cufurovic’s art has been recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Mirela is a Bosnian-born artist and academic based in regional New South Wales. With a self-taught painting practice that is steadily evolving from watercolour to acrylic paint, unpacking her identity as a survivor of the Bosnian War has remained consistent throughout. She channels this facet of herself through her paintings in a way that is deeply personal yet also universal, building connections with others who have experienced trauma from war. Mirela’s dedication to encouraging conversations about minority identities has seen her featured on SBS Bosnian Radio and the Australian Muslim Times newspaper. Her art has been exhibited in galleries and art prizes across Australia.
A report published last year stated that 1.6 billion children were living in a conflict-affected country in 2019. Of this figure, more than 71 million were 0–5-year-olds who had been living in areas that had seen conflict their entire lifetime. This artwork pays tribute to these children whose lives are disrupted by war. Dolls are usually considered cute, but this one is not meant to be comfortable to look at. It’s messy just as war is messy. It’s patchy just as peace attempts are patchy. As dolls have been shown to foster empathy in children, this unsettling character reminds us that things can still be mended even when they’ve been broken. All children deserve to know peace and with that, all children deserve to believe hope is still out there.
Safa El Samad
The State of Palestine, 2021
Digital drawing, print
59.4 x 42cm
Safa El Samad lives by the axiom that ‘the architect should be able to design everything from the city to the spoon.’ Not only a testament to her all-rounded experience as a multidisciplinary artist, fashion designer and emerging architect, Safa is also passionate about art and design that is built to last. She recently combined these areas of interest into an original and certified sustainable t-shirt design to raise funds for Lebanon’s bushfire recovery efforts. Safa is currently completing a Masters of Architecture at Monash University.
The artist wishes to leave the interpretation of this work entirely up to the viewer.
Morning Anxiety, 2021
60 x 40cm
Ahmed Elsayed has a dynamic identity. Having been born in Egypt, raised in Saudi Arabia, lived in Singapore and now residing in Melbourne, Victoria, Ahmed’s vast cultural experiences present themselves in the diverse subjects he explores through his photography: macro, food, architecture, landscape and sport. Ahmed was an official photographer for the 28th SEA Games and the 18th ASEAN University Games. He also has a Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging from Photography Studies College in Melbourne.
“I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: ‘If you were to rely upon Allah with the reliance He is due, you would be given provision like the birds: They go out hungry in the morning and come back with full bellies in the evening.”
I miss you too, habibi, 2020
13.9 x 9 x 7.5cm
For Ayman Kaake, sometimes imagination is better than reality. Born in Tripoli, Lebanon, Ayman moved to Australia in 2011 to study visual arts. Pursuing his creative vision led to diplomas in photo-imaging and visual arts from Melbourne Polytechnic, winning best conceptual folio with each. In 2014, his passion for cinema and photography eventually developed into a body of digital artworks, creating surreal images that delve into the dreamlike world of personal experiences, emotional turmoil, and the complexities of isolation that come with starting a new life in a new country.
“I miss you too, habibi”
“Ana kamen eshta2tellak, habibi”
Ayman’s work is inspired by a tradition inaugurated by his mother. Each time she visited someone returning from the hajj pilgrimage, she would present the artist with a viewmaster. These would contain landscape images of the Kaaba, the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, and other holy Islamic sites. The artist sought to recreate this nostalgia in the artwork by using this toy that became a code between mother and son in two different time and countries. Dreamlike images featuring self-portraits depict the isolation, homesickness and melancholy he feels from being away from his mother, 11 siblings and homeland. When Ayman’s mother received it, she sent a voice message saying, “I miss you too, habibi.”
Not the Dark Ages, 2021
Acrylic, ink, silver leaf and gold leaf on canvas
101.6 x 101.6cm
Samia Khan creates contemporary artworks that reimagine the Islamic calligraphy tradition. Many feature textual elements including poetry and verses from the Quran, motivated by her aim to remind viewers of spiritual growth and self-actualization. Her use of mixed media such as acrylic paint, ink, copper and wood are influenced by the diverse cultures and environments she has experienced, having been born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and briefly residing in the United Kingdom. Samia’s works have been exhibited at the Islamic Museum of Australia and are held in many private collections across Europe, the Middle East and North America.
The artwork champions the golden age of Islamic civilisation. While it was perceived that the world was languishing in the Dark Ages, the Islamic civilisation was thriving with its contributions to the sciences. The text in the centre of the work spells the word ilm which means ‘knowledge’ in Arabic. It is written in the Thuluth style of Arabic calligraphy. The canvas edges are covered in gold leaf and finished with an antique effect, denoting the progresses made by Muslims during this golden era.
Facebook: Samia Khan Arts
Between Worlds, 2021
Watercolour and ink on paper
76 x 56cm
Tasmina is a Bangladeshi born visual artist, currently based in Melbourne, Australia. She completed Bachelor of Arts (Graphic Design) from Curtin University, Australia in 2007 and Master of Creative Arts from Deakin University, Australia in 2019. Since then she has participated in four curated solo art exhibitions and two group exhibitions, digitally and in physical art spaces in Melbourne, Sydney and Dhaka.
Her artwork explores the multiplicity of human perceptions, the interconnection between human, nature and consciousness. In addition to this, her curiosity dwells in exploring the intricacies of heritage architectural forms and structures. Her art depictions are within the genre of figurative and abstract representations. Tasmina uses watercolour and ink on paper to reflect the fluid beauty of perception and how we see things through a fragmented lens. Nature has always been the core inspiration of her paintings, evoking inner emotions and helping her to transcend and express artistically. Tasmina regards her art as a vehicle to connect and awaken people, and concurrently that gives life to her story.
She states: In oneness, we feel a deeper connection with everything in existence. My art explores the subconscious and the perception of reality, structured in terms of dualities- self/other, internal/external, spiritual/material and human/nature. In this era of uncertainty and global change, many of us have developed an acute understanding of interconnection between nature, mankind and the harmony that exists within polarities.
Nature has been the core inspiration in creating these artworks. Forms and elements of nature in particular the depiction of bird is a pictorial trope to represent the coexistence of inner and external worlds, freedom of soul, solitude and self-reflection. Watercolour and ink on paper represents the fluid beauty of our perception and how we see things through a fragmented lens.
Matthew Mahamoud, 2021
8 x 10cm photograph
28 x 35.5cm frame
Identity, humanity and mental health are subjects that Yakub Ogunsina explores through photography and spoken word poetry. His work has been presented in multiple group exhibitions and publications. Yakub directs and photographs for Slime Streetwear, an apparel brand created by young people from an African diaspora. He is also a social worker in the Gippsland region of Victoria.
Yakub’s photograph features an 11-year-old Sudanese boy, Matthew Mahamoud, posing for the camera. The artist was at his colleague’s residence when Matthew decided he would love to be photographed. Yakub aimed to capture a spur of authenticity with a mix of happiness and youth, which he believes many Muslims take for granted at times.
Sultan Hamza, 2020
118.9 x 84.1cm
While Western Sydney’s graffiti is seen as vandalism by some, Hamza Rashid elevates it to powerful fine art. Hamza’s multimedia and musical projects explore and critique the world of graffiti, politics, race and culture in the multicultural mosaic where he resides, colloquially known as ‘the area’. His newest self-produced and self-written 7-track EP, ‘Conference of the Birds’, has been said to have cemented the artist as one of the most exciting upcoming emcees in Sydney, New South Wales.
“Conquest, consolidation, expansion, degeneration and conquest.”
This was the pattern of human civilisation according to 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun. One of the greatest Muslim scholars, Ibn Khaldun believed that history is a cyclical process whereby sovereign powers come to existence, get stronger, lose their strengths and are conquered by other sovereign powers over time. More precisely, every community is uncivilised at the beginning, and attempts to acquire power around its own territory. Hamza’s artwork explores the cyclical nature of conquest against the tense and tumultuous backdrop of Western Sydney, New South Wales.
Lefke morning, 2012-2021, 2021
Single channel HD video with audio
Khaled Sabsabi is an established award-winning artist. After migrating with his family in 1978 to escape civil war in Lebanon, Khaled immersed himself in the Western Sydney hip-hop scene where he worked as a performer alongside young Arabic, Aboriginal and Pacific Islander people. These early creative endeavours helped solidify social justice as the crux of Khaled’s practice, where he continues to use multidisciplinary art to help marginalised individuals feel empowered to counteract racism. Khaled’s work is held in 14 private collections across Australia and internationally. Recent accolades include the Fishers Ghost Prize in 2014 and the Western Sydney ARTS NSW Fellowship 2015. He has also represented Australia at the 18th Sydney Biennale, the 9th Shanghai Biennale and the 5th Marrakech Biennale, among others.
Khaled has engaged and collaborated with the Naqshbandi Sufi Order based in Western Sydney since 2010. Lefke morning is a spiritual and artistic continuation which was filmed in Lefke, Cyprus in 2012. The work reveals an insight into the spiritual and communal gatherings of members of the Lefke Order who come together at dawn for spiritual meditation in the form of Zkir ceremonies. The artist intends to invite audiences to witness a world that eloquently explores visual manifestations of subtle social realities and the strength of shared spirituality and territories of the heart.
“When your chest is free of your limiting ego,
Then you will see the ageless Beloved.
You can not see yourself without a mirror;
Look at the Beloved,
He is the brightest mirror.”
Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī
Sparking joy – the language of colour, 2021
900 x 1200cm
Melissa (Anisa) Sharif specialises in mosaics that foster social cohesion. Anisa uses exquisite fragments of semi-precious stone, crystal and art glass arranged in Indian, Morrocan, Persian and Art Nouveau styles to tackle difficult topics, especially those regarding religious tolerance. She has been instrumental in developing community programs that encourage intercultural connection and trust through mosaic art initiatives with the Community Liaison Team at the Australian Federal Police. Anisa’s mosaic, ‘Two Peacocks’, glistens in one of the Islamic Museum of Australia’s permanent galleries. Visitors are always invited to engage in a tactile experience with her work.
Anisa’s artwork envisions a Moroccan-inspired alcove flooded with brilliant colour and intricate design. It aims to rebut the ongoing ‘dark days’ narrative perpetuated by popular media during COVID-19. For Anisa, it was indeed a long, dark winter, but she found herself craving vivid hues that sparked joy and happiness. During this time, the artist delved into colour therapy, visual communication and the cognitive sciences, learning more about the influential power of colour upon the psyche. The artist says, “this piece radiates optimism and joy. It will forever scream in the face of darkness and sadness, ‘you cannot dim my light!'”
Facebook page: Anisa Sharif Artist