My name is Mariam Suleman, born June 29, 1996. I am a self-taught visual artist born and bred in Mombasa, Kenya. I have been fascinated by art throughout my life but, my travel to China cultivated an interest in mandalas. Which I further developed upon my return with a twist of Islamic geometric art. Most people that come across my Mandalas have compared them to the Persian intricate artworks.
How long have you been making art ?
Since I was a kid, I always looked for an opportunity to translate what I experience into art, and since 2015 I have led a life fully devoted to art.
What does your work aim to say ?
Before I get to the message behind my work, I’d like to highlight the definition of a mandala. Mandala means a ‘circle’ in Sanskrit. It’s famously known as a spiritual and ritual symbol in many Asian cultures. Inspected closely, there are many hidden symbols in the artistic details. When I chose this path, I decided not to dwell much on the symbols to relay a message but to explore my endless imagination and see where creativity would take me. I always pour my heart and mind into each piece and let the audience speak for themselves.
Who are your biggest influences ?
My biggest influences are a French-Tunisian artist called El Seed and a Pakistani artist called Bin Qulander. I know their works don’t resonate with my work but, I adore their masterpieces, lifestyle, discipline, and mostly their journey in the art field. I guess I am a mandala artist with a strong bond to calligraphy.
When is your favourite time of day to create ?
My favourite time of the day to create is most definitely at night. I won’t even think twice about this haha! It’s at this time when I get some ‘me’ time. No responsibilities to attend to, just me and the world at peace.
Describe how we can encourage your career growth.
I wish the answer to this question gets the loudest attention. I wish we had art residences where we could appreciate artists of all genres.
For instance, most galleries in Kenya prefer a specific genre of art: ‘African art’ Leaving artists like me feeling left out.
I’d encourage people to appreciate other forms of art, offer support both financially & mentally, lastly, we need more quality supplies at a reasonable price.
Describe the best piece of art you have created so far ?
A Persian carpet painting that I worked on for almost a month or two I think. It was the biggest piece I had created at the time. When I look at it, I feel proud and satisfied, but of course, it doesn’t end there. There’s still a fire in me to create better ones. Whenever I look at it, I see change, just like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. It was with this piece that I started working on something else apart from mandalas. It was my transitioning point.
What is the best piece of advice you have received ? What advice do you have for others starting out ?
I can not pinpoint which one is the best because all just marry each other, but here are some of my favourites
- Remember, you have to make mistakes because each mistake will help you develop a new technique.
- Challenge yourself because the more you stay in your comfort zone, the harder it is to get out.
- You have to work with your heart and brain and keep improving yourself.
Advice for those starting out
- Being an artist takes a lot of discipline and hard work.
- Know your identity and your roots these two will make you remember who you are every time you work on a masterpiece.
- Lastly, keep feeding your brain to stimulate it.
When do you know that you have finished your work ?
This has always been a constant battle, every time I think I’m done, I see something else I could add or remove, but then I remember Leonard da Vinci said that “Art is never finished only abandoned”. So, I only stop when it feels right.
How do you balance your time in the studio with other commitments such as family ?
It’s all about setting priorities right. As a wife and a mother, I first make sure I’m done with my daily responsibilities during the day. This gives me ‘me’ time at night.
What is your working procedure ?
Sketching, drawing, painting, outlining, cleaning, and lastly, embellishment.