“Love in the Age of Khadija” is not your typical love story. In her latest collection of paintings, award-winning visual artist and Arab calligrapher Mariam Rajput illustrates romantic concepts of a life filled with passion, vibrancy and perceptions of what makes a modern Muslim woman. Her paintings are filled with intimate reflections of female identity in Islam, her own identity as an artist, and the beauty of relationships rooted in joy. Rajput’s work has continuously negotiated a subliminal truce between the graceful arches of Arabic calligraphy and abstract design. With her last works in the series, “The Dark for Light Series” (2021) sold out after 2 days of public release in August, Rajput has established herself as a sought-after contemporary artist on the global art scene.
Over the past few years, Rajput has gained a devoted following. With his formal education focused on professional training towards his PhD in Psychology, Rajput’s talents as an artist are self-taught and driven by a passion for creative expression. Her immersive painting style laid the foundation for how she built her art practice; through contemplative decompositions of religious texts and their reformation into poignant pieces of conceptual art. Rajput’s paintings have the feel of an abstract landscape but carry the message of an emotional revolution. From layers of pure 24k gold to deep and focused blue hues, each piece is full of religious identity and powerful Islamic motifs – sending symbolic messages to the nature of the sign of the times.
In an age of feminine awakening, Rajput takes a contemplative approach to a woman’s identity and strength in Islam; his new collection of paintings challenges the stereotypes that circulate today. Rajput’s work explores the beauty and purpose defined by Prophet Muhammed’s first wife (peace be upon him), Khadija bint Khuwaylid.
“I didn’t want to focus on arguments against invalid stereotypes,” Rajput said during a recent visit to his studio in Manhattan, New York. “Instead, I decided to focus my work on the first woman to embrace Islam and the beauty of the relationships she had in her lifetime. It’s not a foreign notion, feminism in Islam, the narrative has just been estranged from Muslim women for far too long. Although its subject matter is primarily religious in nature, Rajput offers a sensitive exploration of the modern feminine with delicate brushstrokes and creative abstraction designed to invite open dialogue and exploration.
The art form of Rajput is very intimate. She brings her work to life with painterly brushstrokes and combines elements of religion and poetry within a modern perspective. His paintings range from large-scale Islamic art designed to be the centerpiece of a room, to miniature impressionist landscapes hinting at a contemplative moment lost in time. Rajput uses her own identity as an American Muslim woman to provide an overarching visual language that sends messages of emotional intelligence.
A glimpse into Rajput’s painting, “Alhambra,” features a romantic combination of bold color palettes and Arabic calligraphy. Written on a canvas submerged in peachy hues, Rajput creates a chaotic rhythm of illuminated floral motifs drawn from ancient manuscripts and texts dating from the 13the century in modern Iran. His use of Maghrebian writing, a form of Arabic calligraphy predating the modern Arabic language, reinforces a traditional perspective while contrasting with a bright and vibrant aesthetic.
Through this depiction of exaggerated feminine design and elaborate floral patterns, Rajput attempts to combat the anonymity of women’s lives. Overall, his painting appears to be similar to an illuminated manuscript or a page from the Qur’an; however, the beauty of this painting is in the details. From hand-brushed 24k gold ink to pastel flowers coated in gouache and watercolor pigments, her works seek to maintain the similarities between our experiences as women and the details that make us what we are.
“It’s a message that you don’t have to be a Muslim to understand,” Rajput said, “that a woman’s story or worth is not defined by how she is viewed from afar, but rather by the beauty of the details which make us whole. I hope these paintings uplift the viewer to understand the power of their own choosing and the depth of that power that we have always had.
Rajput’s commitment to uplifting the female narrative goes beyond her artwork with her contributions to community and charitable giving. Rajput has donated many wanted paintings to charity auctions for women’s rights, funds for shelters that house victims of domestic violence and women’s literacy organizations in Middle Eastern countries. In recent years, her works have been auctioned off by organizations such as CAIR, Islamic Relief USA, and the Red Cross, resulting in Rajput being honored with the Woman UP! Prices in Pennsylvania (United States) in 2018.
“To see Mariam’s work is to see the convergence of design and faith in real time,” explains Ahmed Chaudhry, founder and president of Muslim City Fest in Philadelphia (United States). “So many aspects of Islam are distorted by social media imams or by individuals seeking to accumulate wealth and control; anyone who challenges these narratives is actively shut down and rejected, which is why the work done by artists like Mariam is so important. There could not be a more feminist religion than Islam and her paintings tell this story eloquently.
Painting waiting lists
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Rajput came to the United States as a baby and settled in New York City with her parents and siblings. Her natural abilities with a brush are hardly overshadowed by her love of creative expression.
“Oh, I did it all,” Rajput said, “I was a homebody growing up and had strict parents, so the sky was the limit when it came to doing things around the house. I play piano and guitar, I spent my summers riding horses in high school and learning calligraphy. I learned the art of traditional Khattak dance, speak 4 languages and can make nasty baklava. My parents supported me in all of my hobby phases growing up, but my real passion has always been visual art.
Rajput decided to release a stream of Islamic art through his annual collective after the explosive sale of his 2017 collection. Catching the attention of private buyers around the world, Rajput’s paintings have recorded six-figure sales and generated a large waiting list for his unpublished works. Art buyers currently on this waiting list include luxury interior design firms, private companies and international royal families. Now, 4 years after his annual releases, Rajput describes his relationship with his audience as a “fever dream”.
“That’s all I asked for and more. I feel blessed to have such a large group of art lovers who allow me to paint. I don’t know what I would do without them. Rajput said. His 2021 collection titled “Love in the Age of Khadija” is slated for release during the first week of December. To join the waiting list to bid on this private version of Rajput’s original artwork, interested buyers are encouraged to register with their email address on the home page of its website.
About Mariam Rajput
Mariam is an award-winning visual artist and Arabic calligrapher working from her home studio in New York (USA). His paintings inhabit homes and collections internationally, spread over 6 continents. To view Mariam’s available works, visit her website www.mariamrajput.com