An artist shines a light on the Muslim community.
April is Ramadan, a holy month with a rich history that millions of Muslims worldwide observe through fasting, prayer and introspection, and celebrations that have been passed down from generation to generation. In honour of this time of year, we spoke to Maiyra, an incredibly talented artist who uses her craft to uplift and shine a light on her community. Maiyra specializes in photography, batik, acrylic and oil painting, and digital art. Taking inspiration from her Islamic faith and influences—Maiyra draws from her experiences across Pakistani, Canadian, and Indian culture—she brings common cultural sayings and norms to the forefront of her platforms and respectfully reframes and takes ownership of them to reflect a younger generation’s values and points of views.
Reflections on the Past
Maiyra grew up in what she describes as a very traditional South Asian household within Canada. “I’m also the only daughter in a house of males so growing up was challenging due to cultural misogyny and gender roles. Overcoming those barriers while also embracing my roots was a tough balance.” But upon returning to Pakistan for the first time in her teens, Maiyra experienced a greater sense of connection with her culture. “Reuniting with my grandparents, learning my family history, and exploring my birthplace brought me immense happiness.” For Maiyra, the idea of “culture” is inextricably tied to history—”It’s our food, our clothing, our values, and our celebrations. For me, it stirs memories of family and tradition.”
Navigating between this deep love for her roots and a desire to forge new paths forward, Maiyra found the balance she was searching for. “Being empowered by strong women, and by educating not only myself but also my family, I was able to break free of expectations set in place for women in my community. I am now able to celebrate my culture not only in my life but also in my art, while also calling out and challenging toxic cultural norms.”
A Fusion of Influences
Today, reflections of her cultural roots are threaded not only throughout Maiyra’s creative work, but also in her daily life. “It’s present in my family life in the form of food, which brings everyone together. It influences my art and my inspiration. I celebrate it through the language that I adamantly teach my younger cousins so as not to lose that part of our identities. I celebrate It by consistently having it present in many aspects of my life.”
Eid al-Fitr, the major Muslim holiday that marks the breaking of Ramadan’s month-long fasting traditions, holds special significance for Maiyra as “a day where everyone comes together with amazing and abundant dishes of food, dressed in our best cultural clothing. It's one of the most important days of the year for me and my family.” One particular Eid memory stands out as a moment that perfectly encapsulates the fusion of unique influences that make up Maiyra’s life.
“A memorable moment for me was Eid 2019. It was a huge traditional event where everyone was decked out in anarkalis and heavy bindis for one of the biggest days of the year for Muslims. Towards the end of the night we walked in all our traditional attire and heels to McDonalds where we sat and had iced coffees while getting stared at by the whole restaurant. It was a very funny and memorable time because it felt like I got to embrace all of my cultures that day; my South Asian roots, my western upbringing, and my Islamic faith.”
Balancing between these shifts across cultures and generations, Maiyra has created a life that is uniquely her own—one that honours her sense of self and creativity, and uplifts her community.
How do you celebrate your roots during culturally significant times of the year? Are there any traditions or norms that have shifted for you over the years? Share in the comments below!