Monday, January 09, 2017

A Unique Perspective

Fathima Hakkim makes an impressive debut with her 'Aurora' show at the Durbar Hall art gallery

Photo of Fathima Hakkim by Albin Mathew

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, Rashida Begum (name changed) told the artist Fathima Hakkim that she had a secret to reveal. Childhood friends, while growing up in Kollam, Rashida spoke about being molested by her uncle when she was five years old. “My uncle told me that if I opened my mouth, my parents would get hurt,” said Rashida. “I kept quiet for 18 years. It made me a very lonely person. I was scared to talk to anybody.”

A shocked Fathima could not go to sleep that night. Instead, she drew a painting of a girl, with dishevelled hair falling all over her face, but with one troubled eye revealed. On her lip is a butterfly. This is very similar to the famous 'Silence of the Lambs' film poster, which has a butterfly resting on heroine Jodie Foster's mouth.

“I was deeply upset by Rashida's experience,” says Fathima. “Many women go through similar experiences.” This unnamed painting, an acrylic on canvas, was on display at Fathima's 'Aurora' exhibition, which was held recently at the Durbar Hall art gallery, Kochi. There are 26 other paintings: watercolours as well as acrylic on canvas.

There is one where a figure of a naked girl, arms outstretched in agony, is invaded by several small fish. And this image was prompted by an incident at a bus stop, at Kollam. “A man, in his thirties, kept staring at me for a long time,” says Fathima. “He had eyes like a fish: unblinking, cold and lecherous. I felt frustrated. Later, I made a canvas where I drew several fishes which ring my body like the eyes of so many men.”

Other themes included the complicated man-woman relationship, the mocking comments which are reserved for fat woman, the joy of being in love and the beauty of the 'Aurora' constellation of stars.

She also has installation works, like paper boats hanging from the ceiling on thin, white strings, an old 'Brother' typewriter, yellow Indian postcards, cumin seed candy and circassian seeds. “I wanted to recreate everything from the 1990s, since I am a Nineties child,” she says. “But all this has gone out of fashion.”

A trained architect, this is the 24-year-old's first solo exhibition. And it has not been an easy journey for her.

Members of the Muslim community questioned her need to have a public exhibition and show her face. “They said that my face is irrelevant,” she says. “I don't agree with that. My face, my personality and my name makes me an unique person.”

Her parents, homeopathic doctor Abdul Hakkim and mother, Haneesa, an economics professor dropped their opposition when they saw the exhibition. “They understood my passion for art,” says Fathima.

This passion had begun in her childhood. An introverted child, who suffered from dyslexia, she would sit and draw all the time. “Anything that happened around me, I could paint it and get away from it,” she says.

The end result is a bright debut for a shining talent. 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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