Islamic Art & NFT’s, Miriam Motlak


Where are you from and how did your journey as an artist begin?


Although I’m half Syrian and half Palestinian, I was raised in Riyadh, the heart of Saudi Arabia. My culture and faith significantly influenced my journey as an artist. Growing up, my family traveled to Syria during the summers, and I always felt mesmerized by the beauty of Islamic art portrayed on mosques, murals, and historical sites. My interest for Islamic art expanded when I had the privilege to visit the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and witness the prophets’ names designed with beautiful calligraphy on the domes. This inspired me to learn Arabic calligraphy, so following my trip, I went back home and stayed up all night watching YouTube tutorials. Then I took one step further by practicing Arabic calligraphy during my free time and sharing my art with my family and friends. They have always been my biggest supporters, so they encouraged me to share my Arabic calligraphy with the rest of the world.



What made you pursue NFT art and when did you start doing NFTs?


I’m a self-proclaimed Tiktok addict so I must admit that app first introduced me into NFTs. Initially, I didn’t understand the value behind NFTs and thought, “why would anyone spend money on that? Just take a screenshot.” But the more that I learned about the power of blockchains and smart contracts, the more I realized how revolutionary NFTs are in redefining the art world. A year later after graduating from UPenn, I finally summoned the courage to create an open sea account and download twitter right before the beginning of 2022. I began showcasing my Arabic calligraphy on twitter and spreading the word about my collections through twitter NFT spaces. After building a small community, I began minting my Arabic calligraphy on the Ethereum blockchain through open sea.



What are you bringing to the NFT art world?


I’m infusing the NFT landscape with the unique essence of the Middle East through Arabic calligraphy. Although Arabic calligraphy is an ancient form of art that is vital to modern Islamic art, it has not been introduced yet into the NFT world. So, my goal has been to showcase the beauty of the Arabic language through my 1/1 NFT pieces designed with the unique Kufic script. My NFTs encompasses a distinct human touch that cannot be acquired through collections containing 10,000 randomly generated pieces. I bring into the NFT world different Arabic scripts that serve as a visual experience beyond the beautiful letters and forms.



Do you make other forms of art?


I love making pixel art. In fact, my first NFT collection called Sneaky Spiders featured pixelated cute spiders. Although none of my pieces sold, it was a great learning experience that paved the way for my new collection: Arabic Names.


How did you come up with your specific style?


I have always been fascinated by Kufic script, since it emphasizes rigid and angular strokes, which represents a stark contrast from the cursive style of traditional Arabic writing (naskh). My passion for this linear style ignited while learning that Kufic is one of the oldest forms of Arabic script. In fact, Kufic was foundational to the development of the different forms of Arabic scripts featured in modern Islamic art. This inspired me to practice writing using Kufic script and then ultimately make this style the centerpiece of my new NFT collection.



How does your faith and heritage influence your practice?


My faith and Middle Eastern heritage are fundamental elements of my NFT pieces. As a practicing Muslim, my faith has not influenced my lifestyle and art but also shaped who I am today. Therefore, I believe that calligraphy is a highly regarded art form in the Islamic world. In fact, the development of Arabic calligraphy is strongly tied to the Quran with a lasting effect on our culture. Quranic verses that are written in elegant scripts can be found on a diverse array of art and architecture. What I admire about calligraphy in Islamic art is that it reflects the importance of written text in our religion. Indeed, it was our prophet Mohammed pbuh who said: “The first thing God created was the pen.”



Is Islamic art growing in the NFT world?


Islamic art is still new to the NFT space but it’s slowly growing. Thankfully, I had the privilege to connect with wonderful Muslim NFT artists who are proud to portray the beauty of our religion. Since the surge of NFTs is still fairly new, we as Muslim artists are currently pioneering the growth of Islamic art in the NFT landscape. Not many people, especially Arabs know about crypto, let alone NFTs. This is why education and awareness are very important in bringing in more Muslim and Middle Eastern artists onto the NFT world. So, one of my primary goals on twitter is to not simply advertise my art, but rather educate NFT newbies, especially those who come from underrepresented backgrounds, by tweeting daily “NFTs for Newbies” tips. Navigating the NFT world is challenging, so if you are reading this and feel overwhelmed or confused by this process, follow me @arabic_nfts and reach out to me for support/advice.



Are NFTs about adding self-expression to crypto?


Not exactly, I believe that NFTs can serve as a form of self-expression and identity as well as a way to join an active community and connect with like-minded people. However, crypto in relation to the NFT world represents a means to an end. Most NFT collectors and enthusiasts invest into NFTs because they appreciate the art and gravitate towards the community.


What do you think of the visibility of NFT women artists?


Unfortunately, NFT female artists are still not as represented as their male counterparts. For example, whenever I join an NFT twitter space, I’m typically the only woman in the room with 100 other men, which makes it intimidating to speak. I often get interrupted or dismissed in these twitter spaces, and I feel insecure about asking questions or speaking about my art. Thankfully, I have connected to inspiring NFT enthusiasts who support female NFT artists and host supportive twitter spaces to empower women in the metaverse. By engaging in these spaces, I became friends with women NFT artists who welcomed me with open arms and guided me in the right direction. I appreciate how women artists are standing together and asserting their presence in the NFT world. However, we still need Muslim women in the NFT world. So, it is critical that we create a supportive environment for all Muslim and Arab female artists. Inshallah, I’m looking forward to creating twitter NFT spaces dedicated to empowering Muslim women in the NFT world.


What are you most proud of with your NFTs?


I’m grateful that my NFTs represent the beauty of Islam and the Arabic language, especially since Muslim representation is sorely needed in the NFT world. I hope that my artwork empowers other NFT artists to be proud of their heritage and faith because ultimately our story is what makes us unique. I’m also excited about giving back to my community and donating 15% of the profits to Syrians living in refugee camps.


Do you have any upcoming drops?


My upcoming NFT collection called Arabic Names features 20 unique names designed in Kufic script, which is a straight, linear style of Arabic calligraphy. Since only one NFT will be designed per name, I will auction off the pieces beginning February 17th, 2022. The first name on the collection, Adam, holds personal and religious significance to me as the name of my brother prophet. Since our prophet Adam was the first man on earth, it was only fitting that his name would be the centerpiece of first NFT piece on the collection. The remaining 19 names will either be custom requests or popular names in the Middle East. If you are interested in my collection or a custom, check out my twitter @arabic_nfts for a preview.


What does the future of Islamic art look like to you in relation to the NFT world?


Islamic art will continue to expand in the NFT world, especially as more Muslims grasp the value and meaning behind NFTs. I believe that the future of Islamic art will be headed towards photography within the NFT world. I’m looking forward to witnessing NFT artists showcasing the beauty of mosques and historical sites in the Middle East with their cameras.


For more information, follow Miriam on Twitter @arabic_nfts


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