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Local artists: Shahida Ahmed
Burnley born Shahida Ahmed's work is a fusion of Lancashire, India and Pakistan influences. Fundamentally a potter, her latest work also showcases her paintings inspired by poet Rumi.
How did your interest in Art develop?
My interest in art developed at an early age because we were a very creative family. I think it was something that was in our blood. My mother designed clothes, she stitched them and had a great vision for textiles, and my sister, who was older than me, went to study art at F.E. College. My grandfather's brother was very creative and produced many paintings in water colours in India and Pakistan. These were mainly of landscape.
In my teens at Edge End High School in Nelson I won a competition with the local army store designing a poster for keeping Pendle tidy. The prize was a tree for the school grounds. Mum had always encouraged us to be creative at home - we made our own dolls out of rags and cut fabric and we designed our Asian clothes. We were taught to cook and make many food dishes that were our own ingredients; my mother was the first ambassador who enabled us as children to explore creativity. When my parents established their business in textiles 'Shehzad Textiles' we were introduced to colours, fabric, textures, different materials and the textiles industry in the 1970s. The other thing I vividly remember as a child is decorating our house, interiors, wallpaper and furnishing.
My earlier works were exploring colour, using patterns and picking up on textures and fabrics that surrounded our environment. This included screen printing fabric and making clothes out of them.
My parents were very supportive for us pursuing a career in whatever field any of us chose to do. I came from a large extended family of eight siblings and all of us were just encouraged to gain an education in the fields we were most comfortable.
How would you describe your work?
My work is recognised for being traditional; by this I mean the influence of heritage plays a huge role in my work. I use Islamic calligraphy, patterns, buildings and lots of textures and colour. The main body of my work is in clay and I have recently started painting. When you see my clay works they look like old authentic pieces from many hundreds of years ago. The colours are earthy and blues inspired by the blue mosque in Istanbul. The clay forms are amalgamated textures which fuse in a very high order to show traditional art. I use stoneware and raku firing in my pottery. My paintings are colourful and very textural. I have used an un-faced figure in the whirling dervish figure inspired by the poet Rumi.
How has your work changed from your early work?
My work has changed; it has matured in style and no longer sketch and design. I can get a piece of clay and allow the clay to mould into an art piece from inspiration within. I manipulate it to make something that comes from experience and visual imaginations of my travels and thoughts. My journey to Islam allows me to focus on my theme. I think many artists use art as an expression and that is exactly what I have tried to do with my work.
My work has also led me to develop arts within the community - such as children's art groups, women's art group and also the first ever South Asian and Middle Eastern arts company in Pendle.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Travelling, poetry, Islam and traditional arts. I am influenced by drawings of Sadequin and Gulgee's work. I also like the works of Jim Robison.
© Shahida Ahmed
How do you think Lancashire and Pakistan have influenced your work?
Lancashire: The journey my family had from India to Pakistan to Lancashire was all due to the cotton industry.
My father and uncles were all weavers when they came to the UK, I remember removing the fluff from my father's ears and the smell of cotton from the weaving shed. He use to bring fabric home and I remember we used it to play with and make things out of it. Later they developed their own business and Lancashire contributed to this very much. The cotton link stemmed from Pakistan/India where weaving and cotton was a great industry. My grandparents and family all came to Lancashire and were very much part of the weaving industry. Lancashire contributes to our migration to the UK from India to Pakistan and then Nelson.
Having settled in the UK and having children my parents always had their roots in Pakistan but had accepted that England was home. I was 19 when I first went to Pakistan and was overwhelmed with the art scene in Pakistan and the wealth of culture and architecture. This inspired me to develop the theme in my work and use the architecture from the city of Lahore into my work. I felt I had been ignorant about my culture and heritage and through art I wanted to share that through my work with others. I wanted to share my history and identity which was one of many people who also had moved to Lancashire because of the cotton industry. After the death of my beloved parents I decided that I would share a message of my cultural history to an audience, as art is always a positive medium to use. I am proud of my historical background and my culture and feel as an artist I can share this with others to create understanding.
last updated: 02/07/2009 at 08:28
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