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an art exhibition in the age of the #muslimban

Co-curated by Saima Akhtar and Mona Damluji
October 18 - December 15, 2017

saks afridi image

Saks Afridi, Code-Switching, 2017, lenticular print

A number of exhibitions since 9/11, and now in the age of the #muslimban, have used art as a platform to counter discrimination and Islamophobia by humanizing Muslims and emphasizing their contributions to American society. Yet, even when cast in a positive light, the image of Muslims often remains oversimplified. Moreover, the full negative impact of actions such as the #muslimban on a diversity of communities (including Sikhs and non-Muslim Arabs) remains unacknowledged.

Multitudes is an art exhibition that seeks to do something distinct by drawing attention to the complex nature of ethnic, religious, and racial identities. The title refers to the multiple and often contradictory dimensions of identity that are expressed by individuals and communities in the United States. The exhibition explores themes of solidarity and intersection within Muslim, black, brown, gender-based, refugee and immigrant communities and highlights the impossibility of defining any region, culture, or identity through a singular understanding.

The exhibition brings together seven artists and an artists’ collaborative from diverse Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds, whose work challenges and transcends narrow representations of people from Muslim-majority countries. While such representations are often dominated by images of violence in today’s news and entertainment media, the work in this exhibition spans a range of media, including photography, printmaking, sculpture, and painting, to create cutting-edge and subversive commentaries on contemporary society that also relate to the artists’ own complex identities.

—Saima Akhtar and Mona Damluji

Artists in the exhibition  (in alphabetical order)

Leila Abdelrazaq (
Leila Abdelrazaq is a Chicago-born, Palestinian author and artist. Her debut graphic novel, Baddawi (Just World Books 2015) was shortlisted for the 2015 Palestine Book Awards and has been translated into three languages. Her drawings and writing have been featured in outlets such as VICE NewsHarper's, Hyperallergic, and The FADER, as well as in several printed anthologies. Her creative work primarily explores issues related to diaspora, refugees, history, memory, and borders. Leila has been involved in issues related the Palestinian cause and the city of Chicago since 2011, and integrates art-making into her work as a community organizer. She is currently a core member of For The People Artist's Collective. She is also the founder of Bigmouth Press & Comix.

Saks Afridi (
Saks Afridi is a multi-disciplinary artist. Born in Pakistan and raised in several countries, he now lives and works in New York City. Saks's art practice is two-fold: collaborative and personal. His personal work investigates the predicaments and perplexities of the life of an ‘Insider Outsider’. This is the practice of achieving a sense of belonging while being out of place, finding happiness in a state of temporary permanence, and re-contextualizing existing historical and cultural narratives with the contemporary. His collaborative work tackles issues around human rights, Islamophobia, drone warfare and social justice in general.

Bolo (
Bolo was born in 2014 and is 83 years old.
Bolo means "Speak (Up)" in Urdu.
Bolo is from Pakistan. And New York City. 
Bolo paints and sculpts questions.
Identity, religion, world affairs. Juicy shit. 
Bolo is man and woman.
Bolo is order and chaos.

Bolo is Saks Afridi & Qinza Najm. 

Bolo is a multi-disciplinary artist duo. With a process that is complementary in nature, the experience and dynamism between the two artists makes for work that asks the audience to consider a different perspective. Fueled by its roots in Pakistan and its home in New York City, Bolo believes humanity’s need to connect is universal and knows no borders.

Christopher Mir (
Christopher Mir (b. 1970) is an artist whose work evokes the feeling of time travel through “reenactment” and archival references. His personal identity reflects the diversity of the American melting pot. His family touches all three monotheistic traditions: his mother is an atheist from a long line of Southern Baptist Christians; his father is a (formerly Jewish) Christian convert; and his stepfather was an Iranian Muslim. Christopher, on the other hand, practices Vipassana Buddhist meditation and does not identify with any religious group.

Qinza Najm (
Qinza Najm is a Pakistani-American artist whose work is concerned with the consequences of inhabiting two cultures. Her paintings explore the relationship between storytelling and identity with allusions to metaphysics, symbolism, and spirituality. Personal memories, stories from history, mystical dreams, and aspirations are realized through vivid colors, gestural marks, and semi-figurative representations which give them new meaning in relation to humanity and the dilemmas of our time. Interaction between Eastern and Western artistic traditions is reflected in Najm’s drawings and collages.

Yasin Osman (
Yasin Osman is a photographer based in Toronto who specializes in evocative images of the living world. Raised in Regent Park as the city began to tear his community down and apart, he felt the urge to document everyday life in his changing neighbourhood. Moving on to his first DSLR only enhanced his ability to capture emotion and depth. He has worked with organizations such as UNICEF, Maclean's Magazine, and VICE. The artist recently returned from Somalia where he shot stills for #LoveArmyForSomalia, an organization started by Jerome Jarre, Casey Neistat, Ben Stiller, and Chaka.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (
Kameelah Janan Rasheed (b. 1985) is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist, writer, and former high school public school teacher from East Palo Alto, California, working in installation, photography, printmaking, publications, and performance. She is on the faculty of the MFA Fine Arts program at the School of Visual Arts and also works full-time as a social studies curriculum developer for New York public schools.

Katherine Toukhy (
Katherine Toukhy is a Brooklyn-based artist working in the studio and in communities to interpret embodied herstories of diaspora, loss, and strength. Her view is rooted at the intersections of Arab, African, and American identities in a post 9/11 context. Her work has been supported by the Rema Hort Mann Foundation ACE Grant, BRIC, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Puffin Foundation. She has exhibited at The Charles Wright Museum of African American History, the Arab American National Museum, The Center for Book Arts, Alwan for the Arts, Five Myles Gallery, and the Gateway Project, among others.

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