Not too long ago, I was at the MAC (Midlands Art Centre) in Birmingham when I spotted a big poster about a local British Muslim woman’s exhibition which was due to be showcased. It was nice to see that a British Muslim woman’s work was being represented, but moreover that she was pursuing a creative career, as opposed to the conventional jobs enforced by many Muslim communities and families! Please keep reading as I’d love to share Maryam Wahid’s story and career, to perhaps inspire you and many other Muslim women to chase YOUR creative dreams!
Maryam’s most recent work is a solo exhibition titled ‘Zaibunnisa’ which recently had its launch party and is open to view until the 18th April - so if you’re around Birmingham, do make sure to pop into the MAC and have a look! Zainbunnisa, which means beauty of women, is a project that showcases Maryam’s experience of her first visit to Pakistan in 2019 as well as her mother’s return after 20 years. Through the photographs, she explores themes such as identity, culture and migration – I can imagine it to be a very touching and relatable exhibition for many British Pakistani’s today!
She has had work commissioned by The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Telegraph, just to mention a few...
Maryam graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography in 2018 and uses this creative medium to express many other themes such as womanhood, belonging, the history of the South Asian community and more! She has had work commissioned by The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Telegraph, just to mention a few – you can check out more of her work here, as well as the list below with some of her other great projects:
EK AURAT KA SAFAR – this title means ‘A Woman’s Journey’ in Urdu and explores what it means to be a woman in Pakistan.
THE HIJAB – this project expresses the diverse, rich culture, faith, and heritage behind wearing the hijab and the variety of ways in which Muslim women style their hijab.
WOMEN FROM THE PAKISTANI DIASPORA IN ENGLAND – this is a series of self-portraits that explores her mother’s identity as a young Pakistani woman who emigrated to England.
Her career doesn’t just stop at photography and exhibitions, Maryam’s creative talent has led her to many great opportunities; she has featured on the BBC, been on the panel for various major art competitions, and has won awards such as the ‘Portrait of Britain 2021’. Further details on her achievements can be found here.
“one thing I wasn’t going to compromise was my happiness and freedom. I felt free expressing my identity through writing and creating photographs.”
But now comes the important part of this blog – how did she do all this? Maryam initially thought she would study an academic subject like her siblings did, such as Law or Accounting. However, when deciding her career choice at 18, Maryam said “one thing I wasn’t going to compromise was my happiness and freedom. I felt free expressing my identity through writing and creating photographs.”
her mum supported her decision, however Maryam still feels that a lot of the
British Muslim Pakistani community don’t value or understand what she does. I think the
lack of support from this community is why many other talented British Muslim
women probably abandon their dreams to please their families, however Maryam says “I
would recommend every British Muslim to choose a career path you feel
passionate about because if you love your work, you will always make an
Maryam is a testament to this; she is motivated by her passion to “tell stories that resonate with [her] culture and heritage and particularly women, as our stories either not told or underrepresented.” And as a result, she is doing something she loves and can see first-hand at exhibitions the impact that her work has - she shares that: “people who respond to my work feel a sense of belonging and pride in their identity - I know what I am doing is speaking to people now and in the future.”
If you have a creative dream, I hope you feel inspired to pursue it! Be sure to also keep updated with Maryam’s work as she continues to represent female British Muslim identity!
If anyone feels inspired to tell their mother’s story with a set of photographs from arriving in the UK, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org – we would love to help share your stories!
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