This year has truly been a year of immense blessings, alhamdulillah.
When I look back and reflect on everything that has happened, I really don't know where to start. So, I guess it would help if I start at the beginning...
We began the year with a bang at the first ever London Modest Fashion Week 2017 - occupying the entire back room of the ground floor of the world renowned Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. As a graphic designer and artist, to have had the opportunity to showcase my work in this magnificent building and within such an amazing space was simply incredible. I created a special painting called the Tree of Life which was auctioned during the weekend. I was absolutely delighted that the funds went to Penny Appeal to fund women's projects in Africa. It was an experience I shall never forget. Thank you to Romana bint Abubakar, Aruge Ahmed and the whole team of Haute Elan for their invitation and assistance.
We then went on to the Muslim Lifestyle Show hosted by the wonderful Adhiba and Walead at the Olympia in London. It was such a brilliant, multi-faceted event with a plethora of exhibitors. What they have created is truly special with a wonderful atmosphere. I was honoured to have received their Artist of the Year Award, which was both a surprising and humbling moment. Another special painting, Sabr, which I created following the terror attacks at Westminster was also auctioned off, with proceeds going to Human Appeal. Sincerest thanks to Adhiba Dar and Walead Jahangir. Your support has been so great.
Next was MLE Connect, a business networking event where I was invited as a special guest. The reception to my work and the connections I made at this event were just unbelievable. It is the connections I have made here which have kick started some long-held dreams. I am forever indebted to Tahir Mirza and Raheel Shaban for the invitation and for their perennial support.
Ramadan saw an invite to a special interfaith event - The Bankside Grand Iftar, where I was invited to speak about the importance of diversity and unity in London and how those themes are central to my work. I was also fortunate to be able to exhibit some of my paintings inside Southwark Cathedral which was an incredibly humbling experience. My thanks to the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, Andrew Nunn, Rozina Ahmed, Amir Eden and all other guests and dignitaries who I met on that very special evening. A video of that event can be seen here:
The middle of the year saw the Eid Festival in the heart of London, at Trafalgar Square. I cannot describe how positive and amazing this event was. Welcoming people of all different faiths, backgrounds and nationalities - literally from all four corners of the globe. The diversity of people in attendance was simply awesome. I also did my collaborative painting, Unity for London which saw the involvement of not just the wonderful members of the public, but also from Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and singer and philanthropist, Dr Yusuf Islam - an unforgettable moment for me. Hugest thank you again to my dearest friend, Rozina Ahmed for the invitation and for all of her support over the years.
Eid also saw the Intu Trafford Centre and Intu Watford Shopping Centre selecting one of my works to grace the cover of their Eid Voucher gift cards. Meanwhile Brent Cross shopping mall chose my painting Unity in Diversity as the cover of their rail pass holders, but also to wrap the entire multi-faith prayer room which was just another mind-blowing moment, alhamdulillah. Thank you so much to both Intu and Brent Cross for their support which means so much.
Moving on to my project for MasterPeace - the international peace initiative which spans the globe. To have been chosen to spearhead the concept behind the London wall was astounding. Laying the initial foundations alongside established artists Samir Malik and Teakster was super fun (thanks guys), but of course, it was the thousands of people; their engagement and involvement and participation that made this meadow of peace all worthwhile. Sincerest thank you to Raghda El-Halawany, Celine Nana Kun and Amir Eden for everything they did to make this happen. It could not have happened without you and I pray this wall serves as a beacon of unity and hope to not only the Bankside community where it is located, but to everyone who sees it.
The Manchester-based Muslim Lifestyle Expo turned out to be another special event this year, as it was last year. The Northern crowd has a very special place in my heart and the art section at this expo is like nothing else out there at the moment. We met some incredibly interesting people but the icing on the cake was undoubtedly presenting my painting, Unity for Manchester, to the Lord and Lady Mayoress of Manchester. My painting now resides in the Lord Mayor's Suite of Manchester Town Hall. Heartfelt thank you's to Tahir Mirza, Raheel Shaban, Rauf Mirza, Masud Khan, Samir Malik, Linda Tabidi, Asma Mirza, Richard McLeod, Raanaz Shahid, Mohsin Patel, Asma Younus and Artz-I for making the weekend so wonderful. To the MLE team, you guys are family.
The year has culminated with an unforgettable trip to the United Arabs Emirates. Earlier this year, I was told I had been nominated alongside over 300 people for a Global Art Award; specifically, for my painting Diversity. I was eventually shortlisted with 150 other nominees in the Best Painting category as a finalist. But never in a million years did I ever expect to win! This is undoubtedly the pinnacle of my professional career to-date. My trip to the UAE was showered with so many other blessings, Alhamdulillah. From my first solo exhibition in Dubai at the beautiful Dubai Creek Harbour at the invitation of the Dubai Culture & Art Authority, (where the original Make Your Mark also continued the next phase of her global journey); to the incredibly humbling event put on in my honour by the Emirates International School, Jumeirah which started with a welcome assembly, the launch of my new UAE-inspired Make Your Mark and Q&A sessions with the children. I was moved beyond explanation. I cannot express my gratitude enough to Saeed Kharbash, Arwa Hanif al-Qassim, Alia Khan, Jennifer McGirr, Radhiya Juma, Barbara Exley, Zahra Valji, Qumayl Khalfan and all the people who assisted at the RISE festival. I can't wait to see you all again in March, insha'Allah.
My trip to the UAE also saw a one-day trip to the stunning Sultanate of Oman. Arranged by the inspirational Omani entrepreneur and fellow Zanzabari, Shadya Al-Ismaily, I had the great privilege of meeting with Fahad Mahmood Al Hasni at the famous Beit Al Zubair museum where I have been invited to have a solo-exhibition next year! Although, I would find any reason to go back to Oman... Wholehearted thanks to Shadya Al-Ismaily and her beautiful family for their support. I cannot wait to be there again next year, insha'Allah.
This weekend, I sat down to plan 2018 - and it already promises to be a thrilling and exciting year ahead, insha'Allah. Already in the diary are trips to Italy (watch this space for an up-coming special announcement), the UAE, Lebanon, the USA and Oman with further events to be announced.... 2018 looks like it is going to be a busy, busy year insha'Allah and I cannot wait for it all to start.
In closing, my final and sincerest thanks goes to you - whether you are a follower, a fan, a customer, just someone that popped over curiously to see my work at an event or even to just say hello, it is YOUR SUPPORT and good wishes that have helped me with everything that has happened this year. There are no words to describe my gratitude to and for you all.