BRUSHSTROKES OF RESILIENCE | THE ARTISTIC VISION OF MARIUM KAMAL
Marium Kamal, a feminist artist hailing from Karachi, possesses a unique ability to capture the essence of femininity and the intricacies of women's experiences through her vibrant and evocative paintings. With a brush in hand and a palette of bold and captivating colours, Kamal effortlessly weaves together narratives of identity, empowerment, and societal issues. Her artwork serves as a powerful testament to the strength and resilience of women, inviting viewers to explore the depths of their own emotions. Through expressive brushstrokes and a keen eye for detail, Kamal's compositions come alive, revealing a world where beauty and strength intertwine. Marium Kamal's art is a celebration of women, their stories, and the power they possess to shape the world around them.
Hi Marium, could you please give our readers a bit of an insight on who you are, what inspired you to pursue a career in art, and how has your artistic journey evolved over the years?
Hey there! I'm a passionate feminist artist living and creating in Karachi. Beyond just art, I'm also an entrepreneur – I manage my husband's art business alongside my own ventures. One of my latest endeavors is 'Laal Peela Neela' a unique feminist art shop that I've proudly curated. Amidst the hustle, I'm also a proud mom and a ‘Harry Potter’ enthusiast. My journey in the world of art has been nothing short of a colourful adventure. From the early days of school, it was pretty clear even back then that I had an artistic spirit itching to express itself. After my A-levels, I embarked on a new chapter, studying art, theatre, and film in the US. However, I followed my heart and returned to Karachi in a couple of years, where I enrolled at IVS. Those years were a whirlwind of creativity, learning, and growth. After that, I dabbled in various jobs – the fashion industry, education sector, media, and publishing. Yet, there was a feeling of something missing, a sense of not quite being in my element. After a rollercoaster ride through different industries, I had an epiphany. With a leap of faith, I bid farewell to the high-stress jobs and decided to pour all my energy into my artistic passion. And you know what? It's been the most rewarding decision I've ever made. Every stroke of the brush, every splash of colour, and every feminist message I convey through my art feels like a step closer to where I truly belong. But you know what else excites me?
Being an active part of various feminist initiatives taking place in our city. Let's keep empowering and creating change together.
Can you tell us more about the pivotal moment when you decided to leave your fashion job to pursue art full-time? What factors influenced this decision, and how did it feel to embrace this new path?
One of the most incredible influences in my artistic journey has been none other than my husband, who happens to be a brilliant artist himself. There's something magical about embarking on a creative expedition together. It's almost as if his presence was the missing puzzle piece, that external validation I secretly needed, reassuring me that my path was meant to be this. When we started dating, I found myself in awe of his extraordinary journey as an artist. Witnessing his dedication, his challenges, and his triumphs, I slowly began to embrace my own creative aspirations. But let me tell you, those early steps were absolutely terrifying. It had been a while since I had truly done this and doubt had a way of creeping in. I often questioned my choices, felt uncertainty. Yet, with his patient guidance, I discovered the courage to push beyond those fears. Looking back, I realize that the journey wasn't just about honing my skills – it was about finding my voice and my identity.
Your art focuses on shedding light on the issues faced by women in our society. How and why it is important for their stories to be told through art?
Ever since humankind first picked up a tool to draw on cave walls, we've been storytellers. Art has this remarkable ability to transcend words, to speak directly to our hearts and souls. It's not just about colours and forms; it's about the stories they encapsulate. Telling stories through art is like opening a door to a world where emotions, experiences, and ideas merge. It's a way of immortalising moments, freezing feelings in time. Art allows us to express the inexpressible, to convey the complexities of life that often evade the limitations of language. When we gaze at a painting, we're not just seeing pigments on a canvas. We're diving into the artist's perspective, feeling their joys, pains, and questions. Art's capacity to tell stories is like a universal language, a whisper that echoes across generations. Whether it's a grand mural or a subtle sketch, each stroke holds a narrative, waiting to be deciphered. So, why is it important to tell stories via art? Because it's a way of preserving our essence, of ensuring that our stories don't vanish into the void.
'While resistance has come, my commitment to shedding light on issues like objectification of women, patriarchal beliefs and equal rights remains unwavering'
What role do you think art plays in society, and how do you hope your work contributes to that?
Art is a mirror that society holds up to itself. It reflects our hopes, struggles, dreams, and challenges. Art is that unfiltered conversation we often shy away from, an avenue to voice the unspoken, to question the norms, and to shed light on the shadows. It plays a vital role in shaping and reflecting the collective consciousness of a society. My work, focused on the experiences of South Asian women and the battles they endure, fits into this larger narrative. It's a form of storytelling that transcends the boundaries of spoken words. Through my art, I aim to shine a spotlight on the hardships, triumphs, and resilience of these women who navigate layers of culture, expectations, and societal norms. By capturing these stories on canvas, I hope to create a bridge of empathy and understanding. Art has this incredible capacity to provoke conversations, to make us see the world through a different lens. It challenges us to question preconceived notions, to reevaluate the roles we assign, and to recognise the strength that often goes unnoticed. In a world that sometimes hushes the voices of women, especially those from South Asia facing unique struggles, art emerges as a platform for empowerment. It says, 'Your story matters.' It invites viewers to step into another's shoes, to acknowledge the hurdles faced and the battles fought. So, the role of art in society? It's a catalyst for change, a catalyst I proudly embrace through my work.
Can you discuss the concept of art as a form of social commentary in your work?
At its core, art has the incredible ability to become a powerful form of social commentary. It's a medium that lets me channel my thoughts, observations, and emotions into visual narratives that resonate with others. Each stroke of my brush, each choice of colour and composition, carries intention. It's an invitation to engage in a dialogue about the realities faced by these women. Art provides the canvas for me to address cultural norms, societal pressures, and the intersection of identities. It's my way of holding up a mirror to the experiences that might often go unnoticed or underrepresented. By portraying these stories in art, I'm opening up a space for empathy and understanding. I believe that art can transcend barriers, sparking conversations that might otherwise remain in hushed tones. It encourages viewers to pause, reflect, and perhaps reevaluate their perspectives. And that's the beauty of using art as a form of social commentary; it transcends boundaries and initiates to drive change.
'Through my art, I aim to shine a spotlight on the hardships, triumphs, and resilience of these women who navigate layers of culture, expectations, and societal norms'
The issues of women's rights and mental health are significant themes in your art. How do you approach these topics in your work, and what impact do you hope to achieve by openly discussing them through your artistic expression?
When it comes to addressing women's rights and mental health in my work, my inspiration stems directly from the world around us. The issues and challenges that women face, both in terms of their rights and their mental well-being, are all too prevalent in today's society. It's almost impossible to ignore them – all you have to do is read the news or glance at your phone. For me, art becomes a lens through which I can magnify these issues, giving them the attention they deserve. By addressing these issues, I aim to do these six things - Raise Awareness: I try to shine a spotlight on these issues, sparking conversations and raising awareness on a larger scale. Evoke Empathy: Viewers are likely to step into the shoes of those who experience these struggles firsthand. Prompt Reflection: Art prompts introspection. Advocate for Change: By highlighting these issues, I contribute to ongoing efforts to drive change. Empower and Support: Seeing these issues addressed through art can empower those who've faced similar challenges. Challenge Norms: I'm pushing against the status quo and encouraging people to question existing systems. In short, my art becomes a vehicle for social change.
As an artist and entrepreneur, what strategies have you employed to ensure that your message reaches a wider audience?
Social media is such a powerful tool. Sharing your work on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok can help your art reach a global audience. Collaboration is key. Partnering with other artists, influencers, or organisations can expand your reach. Joint projects tap into diverse audiences. Physical exhibitions, galleries, and art fairs provide direct interactions with people who appreciate art. Finally, sharing the narrative behind your work encourages people to connect with your art on a personal level.
How do you navigate the challenges of making your art and advocacy visible in a society where brown women's voices are often sidelined?
This patriarchal world tries to muffle women's voices and for women in any career persistence becomes our greatest ally. It's about asserting ourselves with determination, standing tall even when met with skepticism. Embrace platforms that amplify your message. Share your experiences, thoughts, and creations confidently – because your voice holds the power to inspire, challenge, and reshape the narrative. As far as female artists are concerned, they globally face the uphill battle of being taken seriously, a challenge that propels us to push harder and shine brighter, proving that art knows no gender bounds.
What role do you believe art plays in creating social change and raising awareness about important issues?
Art holds a megaphone to society's most pressing issues. It's a reflection of our society. Through visuals and emotions, it awakens conversations that might have otherwise remained dormant. It paints a picture of reality, forcing us to confront uncomfortable truths. Art's role in raising awareness isn't just about aesthetics; it's about igniting change through empathy and understanding.
As an artist, how do you navigate the challenges and pushback you may face when addressing sensitive topics in your artwork? How do you balance staying true to your message while also promoting understanding and open dialogue?
Navigating pushback when addressing sensitive topics as an artist is both a tightrope walk and an assertion of purpose. It's acknowledging that meaningful conversations might ruffle feathers, but they're essential for progress. While resistance has come, my commitment to shedding light on issues like objectification of women, patriarchal beliefs and equal rights remains unwavering. My art becomes a conversation starter for thought- provoking discussions. It's not about seeking confrontation; it's about inviting reflection and empathy. Honestly to me, pushback is a reminder of the discomfort change often brings, and it further fuels my determination to contribute to a more enlightened narrative.
Many artists struggle with finding their unique style. How did you discover your distinctive artistic voice, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists in their search for authenticity?
Discovering my distinct artistic voice was a journey fueled by trial and error. It involved countless hours of research, exploring different techniques and styles. It was about finding what I truly wanted to say to my audience. I delved into introspection, questioning what stirred my passions the most. It's a process of aligning my emotions with my art, of turning what resonates within me into something tangible. For aspiring artists, I would say staying authentic is what should guide your creative journey. Your unique voice is the key. Don't waver from your truth, even when faced with doubters. Believe in yourself, your vision, and the power of your message. Remember, art isn't just about perfection; it's about genuine expression. Chase the subjects that truly resonate with you. While the path might be challenging, it's crucial to find joy in the process. When you're authentically aligned with your work, it's not just about creating; it's about evolving, resonating, and ultimately, making an impact. So, embrace your authenticity, and above all, enjoy the journey you've chosen.
INTERVIEW: SAFA ADNAN
PHOTOS: COURTESY MARIUM KAMAL