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Showcasing local Muslims’ nuanced identities through art

Sisters Sadia (left) and Yusra (right) Ali talked about CAIR-MO’s annual art exhbit showcasing various local Muslim talent.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Sisters Sadia (left) and Yusra (right) Ali talked about CAIR-MO’s annual art exhbit showcasing various local Muslim talent. ";

Sisters Sadia and Yusra Ali are Muslims who’ve grown up in Ballwin, Missouri, sharing a love and appreciation of fine arts. In their circles, such creative pursuit is fairly uncommon.

“We’re always looking for the most secure line of work, the most unique line of study, the most secure relationship,” Sadia Ali said of her community. “And art is a challenge for security.”

The Alis spoke to host Don Marsh on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air about “Creativity & Identity: An American Muslim Art Exhibition” – a local showcase organized by the Council on American Islamic Relations-Missouri (CAIR-MO) starting at 5:30 p.m. March 31 at the Contemporary Art Museum.

Sadia and Yusra Ali are the event’s lead organizer and curator, respectively. They expressed that their community often overlooks the contribution of arts in society. Sadia Ali explained that that is due to their community following a “unique system of security.”

She explained that since art isn’t seen as a riskless profession, setting up the exhibit helps provide an organized area for artists to have a safe space to present their talents freely and “confidently.”

The event aims to use art to challenge negative stereotypes and feature local Muslims’ multi-faceted artistic talent.

“Growing up as a student that loved comics and anime … it was really amazing to meet all these other Muslim artists and finally have the chance to give them a place to shine,” Sadia Ali said.

This year’s event is a follow-up to CAIR-MO’s first art exhibit held in 2017 – which “blew everyone away,” Yusra Ali said. Attendees expected to see “traditional Islamic art” but ended up experiencing various forms of unique “masterpieces, poetry and craftsmanship.” The myriad work included contemporary pieces intended to show a broad range of perspectives from people who practice.

“Our art represents America,” Yusra Ali said. “Muslim is our own personal identity, and then our own individualism is a part of our art.”

She noted that those presenting at the exhibit come from various ethnic backgrounds who also express their life experiences through numerous ways besides painting or sculpting, including modest fashion, storytelling or textiles.

 “Artists are givers to society,” Yusra Ali said. “With this exhibition, we want to value individual’s talents and value their stories and give them an opportunity to express themselves and be confident.”

Related Event:

What: CAIR-MO’s “Creativity & Identity: An American Muslim Art Exhibition”

When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31, 2018

Where: Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis MO, 63108

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and LaraHamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
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