Review of JAAN Arts Week

1095078_10151807695326352_1187936795_nOne word – awesome.

Although I attended only two of the JAAN Revival Of The Islamic Arts events, I came away energised, inspired, and motivated to continue on my own journey as a writer, poet, and artist. The international guest speaker, Mustafa Davis, gave a great photography workshop last Wednesday and it was good to see the man behind the photographs.

One thing I’ll take away from the workshop is something one of his mentors told him:

If you wanna shoot more interesting photos, be a more interesting person.

Sounds ridiculously obvious, right? But it’s very sage advice. Photography, like all other art forms, is an expression of the artist. Good art comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability. Creating more authentic art is directly linked with our own authenticity as human beings. His honesty about having a difficult childhood really resonated with me, and so did his description of photography being the only way he knew how to express himself emotionally. Writing has always been my outlet.

Random note: He must have used the phrase ‘pretentious photographers’ at least a dozen times during the workshop! I appreciated his attitude that if we put our minds to it and practice, we can all take fantastic photographs. Great photography isn’t just for the…pretentious photographers lol. He made it very clear that it took him a long time to reach the level he’s at now, so that’s encouraging for any of us who are just starting out on an artistic endeavour. Keep at it, and the fruits will come.

Mustafa Davis will be coming back to Sydney in December, so if you’re in any way interested in photography, I can assure you that you’ll enjoy his workshop. I was lucky enough to chat to him after the workshop and I’ll be mulling over what he said to me as I develop my writing, poetry and photography. More on that later.

The Thursday night JAAN Q&A was another great experience. It was  refreshing to hear the thoughts of all the panelists. Whether or not they identify overtly with being a Muslim artist, each has a unique story to tell, and their story is inevitably influenced by the lens of Islam. Being a student of knowledge myself, it was inspiring to learn that Mustafa Davis studied Islam at the hands of scholars for ten years. So in addition to producing films and shooting photographs, he also teaches fiqh on the weekend! Plus, he’s also married and has four children. All in all, I’m glad I’ve finally found an artistic role model and mentor.

Thank you to the panelists, JAAN and IMA crew! Here’s to more events, and to more forward-thinking discussions about art within the Muslim community, and beyond.

Memorable quotes from the night:

Confines can make you a better artist, versus a free-for-all…look at it [boundaries of Islam] as a benefit, and your art will flourish. Mustafa Davis

You get abuse when you challenge people’s worldviews. If you’re comfortable in your beliefs, you won’t care. – Amal Awad

Is writing about sin encouraging sin? Clarify your intentions for every piece. – Zeynab Gamieldien

It’s not revival we’re really looking at….can’t keep looking back. We need a new conversation. – Nazeen Reehman

Singing is da’wah. – Hameed Attai

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