Rezia Wahid, MBE is a Bangladeshi-born British textile artist and designer. Passionate about the traditional craft of weaving, her contemporary art textile work has been exhibited both in the United Kingdom and abroad.
We talked to the trailblazing artist about her commitment to reviving the heritage of traditional weaving, gaining recognition through her work and her thoughts on the future of Islamic art.
You graduated in Woven Textiles with a First-class degree in 1998 from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, England, why did you pursue study in weaving and textiles?
I was always interested in the Arts, from literature to ceramics so after studying A level English Literature, Bengali Literature, Art, Textiles, Graphics and History- I couldn’t decide on my Degree specialism. Therefore, I went to study a Foundation course at Chelsea College of Art and Design where I was even more convinced that I enjoy Art in the broadest context. However, I felt Textiles was undervalued yet the techniques are much more complex so I decided to study to focus my Degree Specialism on it and went to study at the surrey Insitute of Art and Design in Farnham where I found weaving – and the magic of creating something from a single yarn was inspirational.
You have been working with determination to revive the heritage of traditional weaving in the contemporary world of Art. Why is this a commitment of yours?
After graduation and moving back to London, I felt I was the only weaver living in London and weaving was a vocabulary used only in literature. There were hardly any understanding of a living contemporary weaver- people associated it as a ‘craft’ from the past. And I wanted to change that concept.
You are particularly interested in woven textiles from Dhaka, East Bengal, India (now Bangladesh), can you tell us more about this?
I became interested in it through my search of wanting to weave Light or ‘Divine Light’ and found that historically the cloths woven in Bangladesh had the essence of what I was looking for- so I researched about and became sad as well as fascinated.
Can you tell us more about how Bangladeshi weavers are still trying to keep this unique craft alive. What are the barriers and challenges?
Well it isn’t so easy for them as the same cotton plant has been lost- there are many attempts but for that to be successful they need support which is now becoming possible due to the Muslin Trust founded by Saiful Islam.
Does your work have any connection to Islamic art and culture, if so how?
My work seeks to capture Light/Divine Light. Many of my pieces have been inspired by not only my visits to Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Morocco but a mosque in Rome. I have studied the light and architectural designs found in the Blue mosque, Topkapi Palace, Aya Sophia, Mosque of Ibn Tulun and so on.
You have been handweaving for 25 years, delivering weave workshops in museums, galleries, festivals and schools all over Britain. Can you tell us more about your sessions and how audiences respond?
My audiences are diverse as my sessions are open and designed for all ages to bring people together, cultures and the arts together.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career to date?
I think naturally, meeting Prince Charles and listening to him admire my work comes to mind. But as a mother-artist my most memorable moment is when my daughter said whilst she walked in to the Tate Modern on a visit to the exhibition of Anni Albers- ‘mummy this is like walking in to your studio’.
You have collaborated with Master Calligrapher Moustafa Hassan to produce Arabic calligraphy with words that are and have been in the heart of Islamic Artists: Divine Light (Annour Alilahi). What was this process like and what was the outcome?
Moustafa Hassan has a very deep understanding of my work and the chemistry came out as a magical collaboration. Which will be published in the book ‘Weaving Light’ edited by Khaled Hakim this year.
What does the future of Islamic art look like to you?
Diverse, open and immersive.
For more information follow Rezia Wahid Instagram: reziawahid1 Twitter: reziawahidweave
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