Art: Hanifa Abdul Hameed
As a child, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I loved drawing, but in 5th grade when I saw Valentino (the Italian designer) on Oprah, I was left in awe and soon realised that I wanted to be a designer. I pursued graphic design at Rutgers University and then immediately got a job as a UI UX Designer at IBM.
I only started putting out my personal artwork once the pandemic started. With all the spare time, I decided to create a space for myself. Initially, I was apprehensive about putting my work out for everyone to see, especially around certain topics I feel strongly about, but after getting positive feedback it only motivated me more.
I try to create artwork around experiences and instances that I've gone through or feel strongly about, and because the artwork is so personal, and because I am a woman of colour and Muslim, I think it resonates with a lot of other POC/Muslim women. Being primarily raised in the US and currently still residing here, I usually speak about cultural/political issues that happen here. For instance, I am particularly passionate about intersectional feminism -- showcasing women from all walks of life whilst expressing a message of equity and equality for them in a world full of systems that work against them.
Digital illustrations can be less time consuming than traditional artwork and are much easier to share across social media where art has always been used to start movements and convey strong messages. However, as I'm sure many of you are aware, social media is a blessing and curse. It's amazing how much exposure it can get you but everything else that comes with it is sometimes not that great. When you put your work out there for everyone to see, you're exposing yourself to negative feedback, bullying and harassment, and then a lot of times lack of credit. It's an annoying stain on all the good that comes from it but the good certainly prevails.
One of my pieces that is very close to my heart is called: "Ladkiyon ki Badnami Hoti Hai". The creative process entailed my taking a picture of myself with my hand on my face and the story was built from there. The jewellery, henna, and a kurti all expose her Indian identity and the leaves and vines in the background represent the society that is trying to consume her through these heavy, toxic words.
I used to hear this term quite a lot growing up and it always boiled my blood. I heard it used in every context, from relationships breaking to stories of sexual assault -- where the faults of men are placed upon a woman, and where a woman’s societal reputation suffers more than a man’s. As a warning or dressed up as advice, it robs women of their voices and of their autonomy through the fear of losing their honour or dignity because her reputation is socially and culturally more brittle than her counterpart’s. I wanted to convey that we all make up society, and if we continue to fear this term, we in return harbour and maintain the ill-thought power it holds.
My work is for everyone, but it's especially for those that wish to create a world where they are no longer held back.
Hanifa Abdul Hameed interviewed by Asia Khatun
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Tik Tok: @colorsofhoney