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Calgary Young Muslims Express Themselves with Art

Calgary Young Muslims Express Themselves with Art
Irana Afroz stands by her artwork at an arts event in southeast Calgary at Festival Hall. She’s part of a growing movement in Calgary. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A new generation is expressing themselves while honouring their religion in many different ways

CALGARY – More young Canadian Muslims in Calgary are engaging in an underground artistic movement featuring everything from painting to poetry, CBC reported on November 12.

“Islam is rich in art but sometimes people don’t associate Islam with art,” said Uma Samari at the latest Muslim Art Movement event which was organized by the Western Muslim Initiative.

Canadian Muslim youth are expressing themselves and their Islamic culture in many different ways. While some of the art reflects beliefs, culture, and traditions, other forms offer a much more modern take on Muslim life in Canada.

Islam and art have been connected for many centuries with a strong history of calligraphy, interlacing patterns, textile work, ceramics, and glass work. Now, this youth movement is adding edgy video art, photography, and spoken word poetry to that mix.

According to Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, there were 1,053,945 Muslims in Canada, or about 3.2% of the population, making Islam the second largest religion in the country after Christianity.

Uma Samari is a writer and poet. She says getting the chance to showcase her work changed her life. She says her art and religion are intertwined. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Many young Muslim artists are challenging stereotypes and realizing their dreams of a career in the arts.

“My artistry is as much a part of me as my religion, the blend of art and religion is very natural,” said Samari, a poet, and author.

Another participant, photographer Safa Abida, said: “A lot of us are just graduating from university and wanted a platform and we couldn’t find that platform out there so we had to create it and I hope we’ll always have it.”

Ahmed Latif, a writer, and editor-in-chief of a magazine expressed his thoughts that “the Muslim voice and identity are only starting to come out now and I think we need to nurture that and have more safe spaces for them to hone their art.”

The next Western Muslim Initiative art event is a “Make & Mingle paint night” on November 29 focused on watercolor painting.

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