"It's important that girls know they have autonomy over their own lives."
Zoya Rahim is a graphic artist who also commissions fine art. Her work involves - but is not limited to - the experience of South Asian women and dismantling patriarchal structures.
Follow Zoya on instagram: @zoyerss
What do you draw inspiration from?
I grew up around a lot of South Asians, and I think that culture tied into the pieces more than religion did. I saw that the girls I grew up around, friends I had, and even some family members...were all young girls who were placed under the same pressures by their families or just society as a whole. The way they dressed, the things they wanted to do with their lives, any of their own thought was scrutinized to the max.
So I made this series of girls who look ‘traditional’, and ‘well behaved’ but with a kind of rebellious spin on it. I think that it's important that girls know that they have the ability to have autonomy over their lives. This whole “oh what will this person say” , and this whole “log kya kahenge” mindset a lot of desi parents have, is damaging to these young girls and it’s as though their life is dictated by invisible aunties and uncles who will talk shit regardless.
When did you decide to start selling your shirts?
People actually saw my post and started asking me if I was selling things, and I was in the process of making shirts for my friends. So i began taking orders (locally). I either take e-transfer or people that kind of know me just give me cash. I am going to set up a proper forum online soon, where people can order things.
How was the Halal project received by your followers?
I got very little backlash, I got one person questioning me and telling me that I was sending out the wrong message. But other than that I have had a really positive response to the pieces. I think that my following is still too small to have any significant haters.
What is the perception of art focused careers in your culture?
Obviously I’m brown, thats never what a parent wants to first hear, “oh mom I want to pursue art”. But my family has been really supportive, my mom loves to see the new art I make. I’m lucky to have a supporting environment and I know a lot of people don't...I’ve seen that first hand.
When answering to people, I used to get hesitant to tell them what I wanted to do with my life, but my family has taught me to be proud and confident in myself. So I hold my head up high (sometimes).
How has the perception of art by your culture or family affected how you create it?
I began making pieces that I knew would make some people angry, because I was fed up of hearing about these stories about young girls being treated in second place. I wanted to make a point. So I think that when I began actually making art for myself (and not just commissioned paintings), I sought out something that I felt strongly about.