Nasima is a London based illustrator with an educational and work background in marketing. In 2016 she started the brand, Moosleemargh (pronounced: moos-leem-ah) which focuses on the representation of Muslim women in a light-hearted, unapologetic and comedic way. She is also a proud British Bangladeshi and enjoys exploring her identity through illustration.
We invited her to join us for the #pakistanjournaltalks session in which we host people with great aptitude and abilities!
Tell us something about your educational background.
I studied in London and have a degree in marketing.
How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you?
I’m quite a light-hearted and positive person. I like to make jokes and help people too.
What inspired you to become an illustrator?
I’ve always loved art and drawing. I’ve been drawing since I was a child and it’s something that has made me happy. I never planned to become an illustrator or share my work online but I’m now glad that I did.
What are some of the challenges that you faced, when you embarked on your career? How did you overcome them?
I was always worried about not having a defined drawing style or being unique enough. I would try to copy other people’s art styles but I soon realized that working like that did not make drawing natural for me. I decided to embrace my own, cartoon style and now I feel confident in my work. I’ve also had people tell me that they think my work is unique so that’s really cool!
How well has the field of illustration been explored in the Muslim world?
In my opinion, it’s doing really well. I think Muslim artists, in general, are producing such great work in terms of exploring themes of identity, religion, and culture; whether it’s illustration, film, poetry or photography. Before starting my Instagram account, I was never aware of any Muslim artists who focused on Muslim characters and issues. Since joining this online community I’ve come across so many interesting artists.
Who is leading the way in the world of illustrations for Muslims, which can serve as role models?
To be honest, I’m still figuring that one out myself! There are plenty of talented illustrators and artists from Muslim backgrounds who contribute to children’s books, animation, etc. In terms of role models, I look for those who are unapologetic and who give courage to their audience.
How has your work been received internationally?
When I was younger, I never thought my work would be seen outside my own bedroom but now I am so amazed at how far my work has gone! I have reached audiences in America, Europe, Asia and even Australia. People from all over the world buy and commission my work and it’s such a privilege that I am able to use social media and connect with lovely people.
Who or what have been the biggest influences on your art?
Maria Qamar AKA Hatecopy on Instagram was the inspiration for me to start my own account of illustrations. I loved the Desi representation and how we were able to laugh and relate to her dramatic characters. It made me want to do something similar but for Muslim girls. A lot of her work is heavily influenced by the American artist, Roy Lichtenstein, who I also admire. I remember first coming across his work when I was 14 at the Tate Modern Gallery in London. I was obsessed with his pop art/cartoon style as that reflected the kind of style I liked to create too. Some of my most popular drawings are a recreation of Lichtenstein’s work.
I also grew up reading Jacqueline Wilson books which were illustrated by an artist called Nick Sharratt. I’ve been told that my comic style looks quite similar to his work. I think perhaps I’ve been subconsciously influenced by him too.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years as an illustrator?
The future is really exciting. I started drawing digitally since 2013 and have developed so much and have been given great opportunities since starting my account in late 2016. I would love to illustrate a book and I would love it even more if it were my own book, so that’s my goal for the next five years.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
My main purpose is representation. I want my audience (mainly Muslim girls) to see themselves in my work. There is such a lack of diversity and representation when it comes to Muslim women, especially those who wear hijab. I want to show that we are normal and complex and funny. We’re just human like everyone else.
What’s the best thing about your color book?
The BEST thing is that people can engage with my art in this coloring book. I created this book because I wanted to encourage everyone to be creative and show their ideas. I also love how there are many ways to color the book, I have videos showing me using paint, glitter and even makeup.
Do you think that your illustrations can contribute reshape the views Muslims across the world?
I hope so! Change doesn’t have to start really big, I believe we must work on our own smaller communities and cities then hopefully it will spread to the rest of the world. Having people who support you and believe in your work is also very important to reshaping views on Muslims. I have been able to do what I do because of the encouragement that I receive from friends and fans.
What are you looking forward to most in 2018?
I’m looking forward to seeing where my art will go next. I already have a special project lined up in summer 2018 and I can’t wait to share it. 2017 was a very cool year for my illustration career and I am excited to see it continue. I’m also looking forward to seeing my friends and fellow creatives succeed in 2018 too – I know some very cool people and I can’t wait to follow their journey!
If you could offer any advice to 16-year-old self, what would it be?
Don’t worry about what other people think. Whether it is about your looks, your life or your career. Just keep doing what makes you happy. Also, always try to stand up for yourself – if you don’t like something or you don’t want to do something, speak up and let people know.
Tell me about your proudest achievement?
Well, my life achievement is graduating from university! I changed so much during those years and have done things that I never thought I could. I became a better, stronger person because of this experience. It is something that will always make me proud and happy.
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
Never give up! If you want to improve then you need to keep making art and keep learning. That is the only way you will improve and succeed. Having passion is also very important. If you are not passionate about something then it will affect your work.
What do you think makes a good illustrator/designer?
Being passionate and having the eagerness to improve.
Do you think it is easy for us to prove our worth to international media?
No, I think as long as we hold onto our Islamic faith, we will always be criticized. I feel like we should not be too focused on trying to prove our worth. We are more than capable of creating our own spaces and our own media where we can uplift and encourage each other. I don’t create my work to seek validation. I create art for Muslim girls, first and foremost, but I do appreciate it when people from other backgrounds enjoy my work too!
What do you want more people to be discussing nowadays?
How we can help each other and make our society better. For example, how can we support victims of sexual assault in our own communities? I think it is vital that our generation speaks to our families when we see them doing or saying offensive things.
If you know everyone in Pakistan is reading this, is there any advice you can share?
Remember the four P’s: Persistence, Prayer, Patience, and Positivity!
Do you think media plays an important role in bringing artists to the limelight? Or that’s just their own struggle?
Media is a very powerful and useful tool. It’s how we all consume content and information. Social media has been a driving force in getting my work noticed and shared. Moosleemargh wouldn’t exist without media. Nowadays, it’s very easy and convenient to get your work and your word out there – which can be a good and a bad thing!