We had the good fortune of connecting with Rijaa Nadeem and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rijaa, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I have been told before that my paintings feel like they breathe. Upon reflecting on this comment I now realize it’s because all my work has a deeper meaning to it. I feel a certain emotion first, and the visuals form themselves after. I was born and raised in Karachi, which is the largest city in Pakistan. It is a country full of beauty which has a magnificent culture, but parallel to that, it is also a country where freedom of speech and expression is not as celebrated. Growing up here, I did not always feel like I could express myself fully on my own terms. Hence I turned to art as my main source of self expression. It was the safest way I could really express how I was feeling. I did not realize how big of an impact it had on who I was until recently. With painting, I could say whatever I was feeling in a discreet way. I could use dark colors when I was sad and use brighter colors when I wanted to represent my happiness. I could paint about topics that were artistically traditional but internally they helped me relate to how I felt. Painting gave me an escape all those years of growing up without me even realizing. As an adult, my upbringing has had the biggest impact on who I am. My art is still the most genuine way for me to express myself. Each piece of art that I create is influenced by my culture in one way or another. Not only does it help me showcase my internal thoughts, it also helps me show the beautiful parts of my culture that usually get lost in the darkness. I am who I am because of where I come from. Another thing my upbringing has done is that it has taught me the true value of my freedom. I do not take my freedom for granted. Every single day I can wake up and be who I want to be. This is something I will always be very grateful for. Each piece that I make is a way of me expressing my feelings in the most genuine way I know how to.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The world can be a very difficult and scary place. The most important thing I want to portray with my art is how to find beauty in all of the darkness. I have always created art in order to express my innermost thoughts and feelings in a safe way. Even Though that was the origin of my art, it has evolved into something much more powerful. It is still a way for me to express myself, but I also use it to express my environment, culture, ideologies and inspirations. I used to create work revolving around dark topics but today, I want my work to be a form of motivation and positive inspiration for others. I want you to be able to see my work and perceive the magic in the world. Exploring this new sense of message is what I’m most excited about as my work continues to evolve. Nothing worth doing in life ever comes easy. My journey has been filled with fears, insecurities and self doubt. When everyone around you tells you that you will fail, a small part of you ends up believing it. But resilience is what kept me going. My mindset was, if I fail then I shall fail, but at least I would’ve pursued something that gives meaning to my life. The way you talk to yourself is one of the most crucial elements to your success. You have to believe in your ability even when every inch of your being tells you not to. I kept on pursuing art my whole life and the most important lesson I have learned is that the only reason others doubt you is because of their own fear and insecurities. It has nothing to do with your capabilities. The only way to get better at any subject in life is to practice it. I did not become an artist overnight. It has taken me years of hard work, practice and learning to finally feel confident in my own abilities as an artist. The better I got at my skills, the more confident I became in myself and the clearer I could hear and express my voice. You choose how you perceive the world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are so many exciting things to do in the Dallas/Ft worth area. I would of course want to include a little bit of everything on the agenda. First, we would start off by going to the Botanical gardens in Dallas. They have a beautiful layout and being in nature in the middle of the city has such a relaxing spark to it. After that, I would take them to my favorite restaurant, ‘Si Tapas’. The food there is exquisite. I would take them to explore Deep Ellum which has become a wonderful hub for many bars and restaurants in the recent years. One of my favorite music venues is ‘It’ll Do’ which has some of the best house and progressive music in the city. The second part of the trip would start in Ft Worth and we would go to the Kimbell art museum first. They have one of the finest collections of ancient and modern art and they have unique exhibitions there throughout the year. We would then of course go to the stock yards which feels like it’s taken from an old western movie itself. It is a beautiful area to get the true essence of Texas itself.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by supportive family, mentors and friends who have not only believed in my potential but have helped me realize it and pushed me to be the truest version of myself. A few mentors to name are my highschool art teacher, Mahwish Idrees, my college professor, Bart Weiss, and my mentor, Andy Streitfeld. These were the people who believed in me and my potential when I didn’t even know it existed. I have been part of some extremely empowering organizations such as women in film and Film Fatales. These organizations are made up of some of the most talented and strongest women I know and their main goal is to support and build up other women in the field. These women are a true inspiration.
Photo credit – Robert Stevens