Preview: Manifesting The Unseen at Guest Projects

Manifesting The Unseen features a group of female Muslim artists and poets.

Manifesting The Unseen features a group of female Muslim artists and poets. - Credit: Archant

An exhibition of Islamic art and poetry will run between November 23 and December 15.

Event organiser Nazia Mirza. Picture: Zaak Photography

Event organiser Nazia Mirza. Picture: Zaak Photography - Credit: Archant

“We exist, we are here, we’ve been here for a long time and you need to be able to see us.”

These words are from Wasi Daniju, a photographer who will play a key role in an upcoming exhibition of art and poetry in east London called Manifesting The Unseen.

The residency – which has been curated by Nazia Mirza – will see a collection of female Muslim artists come together for a three-week showcase of geometry, calligraphy, illumination, poetry, events and workshops at Hackney’s Guest Projects.

“As Muslim women, we’re not victims and we are tired of being reduced to racist stereotypes,” says Nazia, who lives within a stone’s throw of where the event will take place.

Nawa e Sarosh (voice of angels) by Jeea Mirza

Nawa e Sarosh (voice of angels) by Jeea Mirza - Credit: Archant

“So we took the decision to showcase our talent, diversity and art in a project called Manifesting The Unseen. It’s about introducing new audiences to Muslim art and trying to create a shared experience to tackle prejudice. We want people to see Muslims on our own terms, and one of those ways is as artists.”

Mirza has assembled a diverse range of artists and poets who will each bring different attributes to the exhibition. Manifesting The Unseen is as much a place for the innovators and boundary-pushers as it is for those who keep traditional practices right at the core of their work. The one common thread is a respect for the culture and heritage of Islamic art.

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“We often feel Muslim women are erased but we don’t need saving – we are in charge of ourselves,” adds Mirza.

“One of our featured photographers, Wasi Daniju, is putting on a project focusing on Black Muslim women. Black Muslims have been here since day one and they can sometimes be erased, it’s an important message even within our own community.”

Evolution by Jeea Mirza

Evolution by Jeea Mirza - Credit: Archant

Manifesting The Unseen will also involve a number of poets writing ekphrastic poems in response to the visual artworks.

“There is such a rich tradition of poetry in the Muslim world,” explains Mirza.

“In my house growing up, my father would quote poetry at every opportunity. If you dropped a glass of water, he had a poem for it.”

A feature of Manifesting The Unseen that Mirza is particularly proud of is the free workshops.

“We’ve written to every school in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, as well as every Muslim school in London, to let them know about our workshops.

“A class in geometry and illumination can cost between £25 and £50, it’s out of reach for a lot of people. We wanted to make it free.”

Manifesting The Unseen starts on Friday November 23 at Guest Projects, E8 4QL. For more information, visit their website.