Muslim Artists in Birmingham Share Dreams and Challenges in Pursuing Creative Careers
On 2 February Amal invited a group of Muslim artists to gather at the Old Print Works. Artists from different creative practices and from across Birmingham came together to share their dreams and discuss the barriers they face in building sustainable careers.
Thinking about when they realised they wanted to be artists, many talked of doing “sensible” degrees even though they knew they really wanted to do something creative; then of the moments that triggered them to pursue their artistic ambitions. For many, that moment was identifying with a piece of art because they saw themselves in it. “I suddenly saw myself reflected in a piece of literature as a Muslim in Europe” said one writer. An artist recalled seeing small children sit up when shown a beautifully illuminated Quran. “It’s hugely impactful on self-esteem and a feeling of belonging and connection.”
We asked the group to dream about what they would do creatively if liberated from the barriers they face. “Make work that makes your community feel they belong somewhere because they see portraits of people of their own background” said a photographer. A textiles artist talked about creating a space in which people can express themselves in ways they’ve never been taught they can, ways that give them confidence and enable them to see their own value. A writer dreamed of seeing “Muslim artists and voices being part of the fabric of the mainstream.”
Discussing the barriers they face to achieving their dreams, funding was an issue for everyone, not least because of the freedom funding could give them - to express themselves freely. “I don’t want to have to orientalise myself. I want to make without tokenising, without having to exoticise myself” said one artist. A lack of advice and support also proved to be a common barrier and there was a desire for “a community that can help us, coach us, support us”.
The session concluded with people reflecting on how rare the opportunities are for Muslim artists to gather “to sit and talk to each other as artists experiencing the same things. It helps to reinforce our determination to keep going.”. “It was much needed for me, I loved meeting everybody and getting connected. I firmly believe we’ll start to have more of voice through Amal”.
“We just don’t have equal opportunities. We’re not included. We want the confidence to take risks and be who we want to be”.
Forming Part of
Amal’s Convening Programme
We convene our stakeholders to share learning, develop mutual understanding and build a community of practice in the arts sector which fully represents Muslims as participants, audiences, artists, workers and leaders.