“Growing up, I would find ways to ruin my parents’ things, be it a wooden clock or a clean wall. Anything “too clean” was naturally going to be attacked with my urge to ruin it with paint and colour.”
Fatima Fasih Watercolours has donated award-winning artwork for causes from Syria to Palestine, but the origin of the organization hit much closer to home for the namesake. Though the name didn’t come along until over four years later, the beginning of Fatima’s involvement in the arts came during her first summer in Canada – also her first summer away from her native Pakistan. In 2010, Pakistan suffered devastating floods, which inspired Fatima to channel emotions and actions into artwork.
“Floods had ruined the lives of millions of people and, feeling helpless and distant, I decided to paint portraits of the children impacted.”
The recent University of Toronto graduate was born and raised in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents. Fatima’s immigration to Canada after high school in Jeddah sets the stage for much of the beautiful work we see today. In the search for identity that many immigrants are familiar with, the allure of artwork grew stronger for Fatima, then further encouraged by her parents. From cultural and religious roots to humanitarian awareness, these influences can be seen in many of Fatima’s most notable pieces.
“Moving here was the steepest learning curve in my life and I think it has shaped the person that I have become.”
The encouragement of those around her pushed Fatima to continue to pursue her passion for the arts, despite having no professional art education, nor previous experience. Also a Teaching Assistant at the University of Toronto while completing her MSc in Sustainability Management, this artist is entirely self-taught. The view of art as an ‘impractical’ field hardly slowed her, and her perseverance is evident in her success today. This passion is what continues to drive her to create work with meaning.
“It’s not about overcoming a disadvantage when it comes to [the field of] art . . . any job you do with utmost hard work and passion, you do get your return for it.”
Instilling meaning into her work brings two main goals for Fatima: raising awareness about international issues, and empowering female artists to highlight humanitarian ‘gems’ of the Islamic faith. Telling the stories of her subjects through artwork is what sets Fatima’s impactful work apart from the rest – and it is the most challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, part of producing meaningful artwork.
“It took me three long months to think over this project, and [it] has been the most amazing learning experience thus far. I felt like I represented each woman in the series.”
The impact of this artwork has not gone unnoticed. Since beginning in 2010, Fatima’s work earned a place in the Art for Change exhibition in Calgary. Her work, “In the Name of God”, also hangs proudly in the halls of Hart House, the core of art and culture at University of Toronto. The Pakistani Consulate General in Toronto also issued a Certificate of Recognition commending Fatima’s work. Most recently, at MuslimFest, her artwork earned the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Artist.
Fatima’s work serves to highlight parts of our faith that remind us of the need to focus on peace, brotherhood and harmony, beyond just the Muslim community. She hopes to visually remind communities of the need to become a more united and giving society, and to bring out the peace and love embedded in our beautiful faith.
“I like to remind people through my artwork and beyond that Allah is not just Rabb-ul-Muslimeen, He is Rabb-ul-Alaameen.”