Keeper pt. i & pt. ii

Keeper

Sunday, 25 March 2012

I keep busy

to keep from thinking of the times

to come I keep

memories

to buy spare time from some

keeper of nightmares and dreams

who flushes me as I keep drifting awake

unwoken, yet full of fares for keepsake

a token, to remind me of our fate

maybe I wouldn’t resist sleep until it’s too late

when the keeper of my days

pulls me to the left

into his dark embrace.

 

Keeper pt. ii

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Right keeper yawns, his fingers gracing thin paper

when can I write something down?

Don’t make me write, and scratch it off later

Oh, your heart is a pawn

in danger of being struck

with a little dirty deal you’ll only regret later.

 

Left keeper races with words and paper as they scroll past one another faster than breathing faster than a heart’s meter again and again without break he writes without mistake every little mistake till the pages form volumes louder and louder as the shoulder gets heavier, heavy still, until…

 

you woke up and said hello to the right keeper

and the left, for good measure

in the morning, in the afternoon

in the evening, sunset, and just as soon

as you lay down to sleep

Tomorrow

is a different day to keep.

The Amelioration

a·me·lio·ra·tion [əˌmiːljəˈreɪʃən]

n

  1. an improvement, betterment
  2. the act or an instance of improvement or the state of being ameliorated
  3. 1650s, from French amélioration, from Old French ameillorer (12c.),
    from a “to” + meillior (Modern French meìlleur) “to better,”
    from Late Latin meliorare “improve,”
    from Latin melior “better,” perhaps originally “stronger,”
    and related to Greek mala “very, very much.”
I set out to open doors this year. To live life.

 

Did I know exactly what I was doing? Of course not. I just followed my guts. Perhaps I should change that sentence. Do I know exactly what I am doing? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’m just following my guts. I don’t know what I’m doing, but then again, I know what I’m doing. Perhaps a little futile to explain, but it has to do with the essence of my being. The things I see, the air I breathe, the thoughts that hit me, the peace I seek, the words of grace my veins speak.

 

Somewhere along the line, seeking amelioration.

 

I’m human, a creation of the Creator, I’m perfectly formed with all my imperfections. Imperfections that only make me who I am, yet set me on a mission for amelioration. That beautiful challenge, we’re blessed with abilities to accept.

 

I don’t mean to write like this, in this tone, right now.. but often when I write, words appear on paper leading me to a place I didn’t quite set out for in my mind. The general direction of wind, yes, but the wind itself has strange behaviour that you can only anticipate yet not fully predict, and therein lies its beauty. Similarly with life in itself. We can only ‘plan’, set forth our feet, but life often surprises us.

 

I think of my artwork as poetry in visual form, similarly, I think of my poems as drawings, only in words. The ‘poem’ behind this artwork, essentially, is as the title suggests. Amelioration. In the spirit of the words I’ve just shared above. In my previous entry, I set out starting to really draw again in hopes of improving my skills, technical art skills as well as conveying-my-meaning-skills. It lead me to ponder upon my drawing conscience, which then helped as a piece of the larger puzzle for my self-improvement.

 

And I felt the need to draw this piece. This piece is really close to my heart. It’s not meant to be solely a pretty picture for drawing purposes.

 

I drew a child, because, we are all children. Not knowing what we’re doing, yet knowing what we are doing. Yes, we grow up, we grow older, a little bit wiser, but a child is constantly learning, constantly growing, and perhaps has purer wisdom. Exploring new territories in life, I feel like a child, and that is ok. That wide-eyed innocence and burning hunger to learn, striving to walk despite constantly falling, looking at a tree and seeing a whole different world… That is not something one should let go. When we grow, we grow up, we don’t regenerate and throw away who we were. Who we were is a part of who we are. A ring in the tree trunk. If you throw part of you away, how will you grow? The rings make each other stronger, and compensate for each other’s weakness.

my brother Khair and sister Maryam, with baby me in the middle. Bonnets et al.

Every child is born an artist, the problem is to remain one once they grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

 

That wing-like seed thing is a maple seed. I wanted to draw a seed, to signify sowing growth, but I didn’t want to draw a run-of-the-mill seed. I immediately thought of maple seeds, because they are beautiful things. They have wings, and flutter gracefully to the ground, like a pirouetting ballerina. Not only are they beautiful and signify flight and growth at the same time, but I have fond memories of them. We had a maple tree in our backyard, where I used to climb after school and fall asleep nestled in its gently swaying branches.

this maple tree is where I used to climb up its skinny branches after school, and just close my eyes to drift away with the wind. I wasn't tiny anymore, yet it still allowed me to lie on its caressing branches. The wing-shaped maple seeds would flutter down like little ballerinas in flight. When autumn came, the leaves would be deep red, but the hidden joy of this tree was during spring. Around its trunk, we could see green peeking out mischievously. And soon enough, it bloomed the vibrant red and yellows of my favourite flowers: daffodils and tulips!

Of course, the other small things have their own little meanings as well. Water… well, water needs no explaining. Just think of rain, and the river… two things I love, and ‘flow’ being a motto in my life. There are things signifying building blocks/pixels, strife, and of course, I love flying pencils and what they symbolise for me.

What sets her apart from my other drawings are her hands. Although I took a reference of a girl blowing a kiss, I drew it to be her hands held out for du’a (prayer). Any du’a, all du’as, a beautiful direct line to call. To ameliorate.

A few days ago, Weekender’s Club had our Cook & Feed program in Raudhatus Sakinah, and the experience left me with a deep impression. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling. I felt humbled. And terharu. And deeply touched. Siapalah aku ni, nak bimbing mereka, padahal aku pun bergelumang dosa. It left me longing to strive for amelioration even more intensely.  I felt no different from them, no, instead I felt deep respect for them. Really, we were no different, I am no better at all, I never even felt that way; I felt closer to them rather than to someone who has been saintly all their life. I was just lucky. They are normal girls who perhaps just made a bad decision in their previous life. I repeat, I was just lucky. They are hundreds of times better than me, for their amelioration is far bigger. They may have gone away for a bit, but they came back closer and stronger than ever. I respect them for that, and for that, they inspire me.

at Raudhatus Sakinah. Pictures credit to Aneesah

Hisham summed it up perfectly;

Imam Bunga Syurga by Hisham Mahir

 

Aku mengimami bunga syurga,

mekar di bawah rahmat Yang Esa,

Aku membongkok di hadapan mereka,

yang tunduk patuh pada Pemiliknya,

 

Aku mengimami bauan syurga,

sujud akhirnya lama, tanda ia cinta,

Aku mengimami hiasan syurga,

indah kesalan tak terungkap kiasnya.

 

Tuhan,

benarlah yang ke syurga bukan suci orangnya,

tetapi mereka yang menyucikan hati dan jiwa dari noda,

 

Tuhan,

aku sujud memohon jadikan taubatku seperti mereka,

 

kerana aku mengimami bunga syurga,

tetapi aku sendiri mungkin bahan bakar neraka.

 

so here’s to amelioration.

On Drawing Conscience

I love drawing. I absolutely love drawing.

Last night after dinner, my two younger brothers, my mom, and I were having a conversation about ‘smartness’. I said we are all smart in our own way. I asked her to describe the ‘prodigousness’ of each one of us. For example, my brother, Muhsin, could tell time by the age 2 and a half, and could read by the age of three. Maryam could talk before she could walk, and asked a lot of questions. Mine had something to do with drawing in perspective.

Drawing has always been a thing I did. I used to draw a lot of attempted realistic portraits in high school. Drawings of people and animals. And then I stopped. Not entirely, occasionally I attempted a realistic portrait or two. What I did do instead though, was draw in less realistic styles. In cartoons and doodles. Sketches. The reason was not because I wasn’t able to draw realistically, I knew I was capable of drawing in the vein of realism. It was precisely because I thought that I was capable that I stopped, because when people complimented on my work and when I looked at my work, I could feel a sense of pride coming in. And that flavour of pride made me uncomfortable. Astaghfirullah. Even back then, when drawing ‘realistic’ living things, I did not aim for perfection. I left some things unfinished. Compliments came, pride came, and I would immediately try to shake it off. “Awh thanks, but really, it isn’t that great.” Which is true, the drawings are just average, but you know how our minds have these delusions of grandeur.

Why these feelings though? It had something to do with this Hadith:

Daripada Ibnu ‘Abbas, “Aku mendengar Muhammad berkata, “Barang siapa membuat gambar di dunia ini, dia akan dipersoalkan serta diminta supaya memberikan nyawa kepada apa yang dilukiskannya pada Hari kiamat nanti, tetapi dia tidak akan mampu melakukannya” .” (Hadis Riwayat al-Bukhari Kitab Pakaian (7/72), no. 846)

 

Narrated By Ibn ‘Abbas : I heard Muhammad saying, “Whoever makes a picture in this world will be asked to put life into it on the Day of Resurrection, but he will not be able to do so.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 007, Book 072, Hadith Number 846)

So I had guilt whenever I attempted realism. Well, not when I was actually drawing it though, because when I draw I’m in a different frame of mind and just draw because I enjoy it so much. The feeling always came after. When I looked at it and thought that it looked good. When people complimented on it.

So then I took a turn to sketches, to cartoon styles, to doodles. It still made me happy. I didn’t feel as bad when people complimented on it, because the compliments weren’t about how real they looked, but just about the design or the creativity. I also didn’t mind if people thought they were childish. I wasn’t trying to portray a realistic image, instead I was just portraying my thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Diagrams of poetry, if you may.

I felt that if my intentions were never to make it appear life-like, then it should be ok.

It’s been several years and my style has evolved over time, though not that much. My preference for drawing hijab-clad girls found a small audience, including non-Muslims/not-yet-Muslims. It made me happy that even those who don’t directly relate with the hijab that my girls were wearing, they still liked my work. I didn’t draw da’awah doodles, I was just being me, but if being me and showing my identity could be a form of that somehow, or just make people aware of people like me, then, cool.

Lately though, I’ve taken a turn to realism again. Slightly somehow. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. As an artist, I go by what I feel like. Experimenting with styles. I really felt like drawing this, so I just did. It’s not really realism, just more realistic than doodles are.

I really enjoy drawing, I know I’ve said that before. Here, I personalized an image of a certain Lana del Rey, just because I felt like it, and named her Lana del Noor. It is totally random. I love mixing colours. A couple of days later, I drew this:

Which isn’t realistic at all, but it was fun to draw. I drew this after work because I was craving for some yummy colour mixing. I didn’t use brown at all  except for the eyebrows, so the colours really stood out more this time.

A few days later, in the office, I was thinking about all this, about how I feel about realism, about my art, and I had to ask Izyan. Really, is it ok to draw? I know I could do realistic portraits if I wanted to, but should I? 

She reassured me, it’s all about the intentions. Drawing is fine, it can be a form of da’wah. As long as perfection in the image isn’t aimed, i.e ‘sempurna’ and ‘cukup sifat’, it’s ok. Jangan cukup sifat lah. It isn’t allowed when it’s as if we want to challenge God and give a soul and life to the image; as in the previously quoted Hadith; as if we can make something so perfect and lifelike as God does. Wallahualam.

I am in the process of re-defining my style, because I want to combine all the things I like to draw into one style. Semi-realism, doodles, abstract, inking, colours, hijab, imagination. I’ve always wanted to do this, but I just wasn’t quite sure how to combine my different styles that I’ve experimented with into one. Last night, I drew this:

It’s my attempt at a cohesive style. I know I don’t want to attempt hyper-realism, though maybe if I tried and practiced I could. But I don’t want to take the risk. I happen to like experimental styles, so I shall continue to explore that. Hyper-realism may be about the skill, but I don’t intend to have my art be solely about skill with little to do about imagination, experimentation, and self-expression.

With all that said though, I am not the best artist, nor am I even trying to be. I just want to make art that makes me happy, which hopefully, will also make other people happy.

InshaAllah it will all work out.