I remember meeting Rahima Begum at the Restless Beings Charity Dinner during Ramadan a few years back. She has such a bubbly and friendly personality and has not only risen to artistic success, but also keeps Restless Beings alive. Recently, her artwork has been exhibited at The Brady Arts Center in London. It is still there for the entire month of November. I had the pleasure of interviewing this rising star.
The exhibition at the Brady Arts Center is a part of the annual Bangla Drama Festival, a celebration of fringe theatre that is in its 13th year running. I hugely endorse the celebration of fringe theatre by encouraging everyone to attend. My exhibition is “Her Kinfolk” and is on exhibit for the month of November. What´s more, it is a free and an open event so please pop by!
Tell us about “Her Kinfolk.”
Women are the pulse of this body of work. Our private and public roles, our successes, our bodies, our collective histories through gender-based violence, our experiences of war and postcolonial rebirth, our relationship to nature and folk customs and our ability to preserve or recreate through aesthetic practices. For example, the female tribe leader of the Dhongria Kondh community in India weaves mountains and streams into her shawls to record her tribe´s history. Then, there is the affinity to mother earth or to the young woman working as a city trader in London by day and sings the songs rooted in her grandmother´s village in Ireland, with her family, by night. These are the carriers of stories and histories. This collection does not want to be specific…it is vast and a compelling fabric of female society.
What is your inspiration?
Women, the female experience, identity, breaking and making, botany and the natural world; folk culture and aesthetics inspire me. A lot of my work is shaped by an alchemy of my memories, my journeys and human rights work with Restless Beings. Aside from these, Haruki Murakami novels, Jhumpa Lahiri´s short stories and Arundhati Roy´s essays largely affect my thinking and my work.
Tell us about Restless Beings.
I co-founded Restless Beings about eight years ago and it is my heartbeat. Restless Beings is an international human rights organization which aims to support marginalized communities that are deprived of media or public
attention. The projects are holistic and work towards self sufficiency. The organization is free of prejudice of any kind. We believe in egalitarianism for all and as such, our team and projects are familial in operation, organization and structure. We are voluntary-run with 100 percent donation policy. Restless Beings includes several global project as in working with the most vulnerable and isolated children who live and work on the streets of Bangladesh, raising awareness about forced marriage, and about bride kidnapping and women´s rights in Kyrgyzstan. Another central project includes the Rohingya community in Burma and across neighboring Asian countries to which some have fled to. We are the leading organization that brought the Rohingya community´s human rights abuses to international attention. Restless Beings has since, championed their rights via various trajectories.
Who is/are your favorite artist(s) and why?
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian painter and sculptor and the elongated necks, vacancy and inner turmoil are among the techniques of his pieces that I am drawn to. Also, the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, who is my muse. The way she expresses her life via her aesthetic choices inspire me.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Passion and consistency are key. Draw daily! And as a good friend once said to me, “Challenge your safe space so what you produce is everything you can express in that moment.” I also encourage you to discover your approach and keep doing it, do it until you are the master of your craft and distinct. Jot down new ideas and carry a little sketchbook with you.
Because of Rahima, I have decided to get back in touch with my artistic side. I used to love drawing as a kid and teenager, but have not found much time for it as I got older. It has been a long time and it is about time that I carried a little sketchbook with me. If you live in London, “pop down” to The Brady Arts Center and check out “Her Kinfolk” by Rahima Begum. Also, visit www.restlessbeings.org for more information on how you can help.