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Mohammed Ali
Mohammed at Copenhagen. Photo:Simon Birk

Aerosol Arabic Mohammed is back

By Tess Langley
OK, so you’ve got graffiti, and then you’ve got Islamic art. What happens when you mix the two? I caught up with Mohammed Ali, an Islamic graffiti artist who does just that.

The 28 year old Brummie has been into graffiti since a young age and now incorporates his faith into his work.

Mohammed in action
Mohammed in action

“Art was my passion,” he said, “when I found religion I changed direction and combined the two together.”

For Mohammed, the fusion between Islamic art and graffiti was more than just experimenting with different styles.

“Islamic calligraphy is the written word of God unlike other religions where figurative depictions of prophets are used. So for me as a graffiti artist I found it a fascinating parallel and where graffiti is normally a selfish glorification of ones own ego, Arabic calligraphy is almost the opposite: the divine script of God.”

Overseas success

Pure
'Pure'

His work has been exhibited throughout the UK and recently in Dubai, a place where urban life and modern technology exists alongside beautiful mosques and vast deserts, the contrast echoing Mohammed’s own fusion of old and new.

Although he is used to international success, with Australian and American magazines showing an interest, this was the first time Mohammed’s work had been shown in another country.

Dubai exhibition
Dubai exhibition

“I’ve visited the place numerous times so it was cool to take my work over there. It was a very powerful exhibition and was received very well.”

Vibrant

Denmark’s capital city became the latest overseas place to be graced with the artist’s beautiful work. Copenhagen Skate Park was host to an alternative art and design festival with DJs and exhibitions, and a presentation by Mohammed about his work.

“It was very exciting, the first time my work had been shown in a venue outside the conventional art gallery. It really opened my eyes and made me realise that it’s good to break away from the norm. It was a vibrant crowd and they really appreciated my work.”

Copenhagen exhibition
Copenhagen exhibition

With Denmark being the country out of which the controversial blasphemous cartoons featuring the Islamic prophet Muhammad came from, it seemed an ideal place to spread Mohammed’s message of peace and love.

The cartoons sparked an international outrage within the Muslim world and Mohammed believes that this issue was swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

“The debate was never really resolved and I’m ready to challenge that. It was nice to be in Denmark where my work is needed.”

PSP artwork

He has also done work for the UK launch of Sony’s PSP (that's Playstation Portable for those of you who’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year).

Sony PSP exhibition
Sony PSP exhibition

He was commissioned alongside other Islamic artists to do the artwork for the launch. Mohammed explained why this was such an exciting opportunity.

“It’s amazing that such a big multi-national company is engaging with Islamic art, recognising the power of communication through art instead of words. Art reaches so much further.”

Positive virtues

As if all this isn’t enough, he also runs workshops for kids up and down the country, working with them to produce their own pieces of art using spray cans.

Showing the kids
Look, listen, learn. Photo:Gideon Mendel

“I put a lot of time and effort into the workshops, as these kids are our future. I try to create some good and get the kids to express positive virtues, as well as giving them an insight into Islam, breaking down barriers and stereotypes.”

He is keen to try and make the children understand and appreciate that his work is not about graffiti, and therefore neither should theirs be.

“They always ask me if they can paint their names but I say no because it’s not about the graffiti; it’s not about yourself and your ego. Don’t look at me; look at the rest of the world.”

Mohammed in the workshop
In the workshop. Photo:Gideon Mendel

Mohammed always hears back from the young people he has worked with, he receives emails and messages on his website guestbook about their progress.

“They leave messages saying 'I’ve been inspired by your work, look at what I’ve done.' It’s really nice to hear back from people and see their art work.”

Distressing feelings


At the moment Mohammed is working on a piece expressing his feelings on the crisis in Lebanon.

“It really distresses me. I’m not just another 'angry young Muslim', but I do believe it is a duty for everyone who sees an evil to do something about it, try to make a change, even if it’s just speaking up against it.”

Not keen to give too much away, Mohammed told me that the new piece is going to be a strong reminder of the reality of war, something which he feels is glossed over in today’s modern society.

Remembrance
'Remembrance'

“No one thinks about the death and destruction of innocent people, it’s all about glory and heroism.”

When finished, the piece will be exhibited around the UK and then will go to a charity auction, with all proceeds going to Lebanon to help families out there.

Multimedia exhibition

Mohammed also revealed some exciting plans for his new exhibition using multimedia technology to enhance the art work’s impact so keep an eye out for any news on that and check out his website to see his work and what he’s been up to.

Mohammed’s work can be seen in Aston Hall and the Museum of The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham until October 29th 2006.

last updated: 30/08/06
Have Your Say
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sham
i enjoy looking at your fabulous art it is so good to remember our religion.

kiran
wow ur the best i just love ur artwork its so inspiring well done it makes me think that there is still islaamic art jus love ur work itz great best of luck

Meg
i think your works very good, and you are giving out the right impression of Muslims at the same time. Well done!

Jamil.Ukraine.
It is a real art!

Reza
Félicitations & Bravo Very proud of you

be proud of who you are
your work is nice and dats what i call art keep up da good work

krupali
yes yes ma man hane lukin puka hold it hane aka klown yts wannabe

Miss KHAN
Hi, it's nice to see Muslims making their mark and being recognised for their talent not being terrorists.Birmingham!!!

manizha
salam! have done a great job. Allah may bless you. keep it up! wasalam, manizha from birmingham

tulhut khan
you are inspirational to me may God bless you

Abul Hasan
Job well done! Keep it up.

fahad rehman
you do some awsome pieces which has inspired me to quit graffiti and do pices similar to yours.islamic art has more meaning while graffiti doesnt keep it brother..fahad from w.london

nazy
keep it up islam and art together looks fab!!

Mustafa
YES, YOU ARE DOING GOOD WORK.IT IS THE NEED OF THE TIME THAT GOOD RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WEST AND EAST IS NECDESSARY. KEEP IT UP. ENGLISH PEOPLE ARE VERY GOOD BY NATURE

jazzy
this is fantastic, love the concept and ideas that mohammed is working through. really fascinating. and in such volatile times, i really hope that his art work can bring across messages of peace and harmony. from brum

sean
hi mohammed i realy like your work it is very cool.if only more artist done the same for peace like u do. well done. sean from brum

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