From humble beginnings in a Sitra village, Waheeda Malullah has traversed the long road to international recognition by the sheer dint of her tireless creativity and a willingness to learn. A self taught artist, Waheeda works with various mediums including video, photography, installation, performance and painting, to examine the role of Muslim women, as well as the cultural and religious norms that govern the world in which she lives.
“I’m completely inspired by women. They radiate this positive energy, which is good for me because as an artist, I feel I have a responsibility to create something new every day,” says Waheeda.
Earlier this year, her work Red Apple won her the Al Dana Prize at the 39th Fine Arts Exhibition in Bahrain. With her abstract series of nine photographs, featuring a heart shaped apple which symbolises childbirth, Waheeda hopes for peace, healing and rebirth in a fractured Bahrain.
“Childhood is a symbol of peace for me. A new birth reinforces the notion of a peaceful Bahrain,” she explains.
Waheeda was a resident at the Delfina Foundation in London 2008 and 2009, and then at The Town House Gallery in Egypt where she met her husband, artist Mohamed Sharkawy. Currently she’s readying her next project, Out, which is a spontaneous performance featuring three blind sisters and is tinged with an honesty and innocence that only children can bring. She’s also preparing another project for exhibiting at the Venice Biennale in May.
“I believe creation involves the capacity to view things differently and I think the blind have this creative capacity. Sometimes, the artist needs to be blind as well, for then, the imagination becomes boundless,” she feels.
The 34-year-old has been juggling her work alongside raising her two-year old daughter Farah, a feat made possible by a caring husband.
“Being an artist himself, he understands the demands of my work and cheerfully manages Farah when I’m away,” she smiles. Waheeda has exhibited her work around the world, but having had no formal training in art, she’s determined to develop her skills further and experiment with more mediums to express herself better.
She has put in relentless efforts in learning English over the past years, but she feels she needs to develop her language skills further as she travels around the world.
“I’m trying to learn and improve myself constantly and I’m doing it all for my daughter, so that she has an example before her when she grows up,” says Waheeda.