The War of the Self: Comments on “War Paint” by Beenish Akhtar

The art I aim to produce is often a by-product of my environment and a means to work through the emotional struggles that I embody in just dealing with everyday life. I believe that everyone goes through a personal struggle in attempting to better understand the world we live in and to better understand our own selves.

With my art, I hope to tap into that aspect of humanity that we all can connect with. As a Muslim American living in a post 9/11 and growing Islamophic America, for people to just look at me and consider me as just another woman going through life’s inevitable motions is almost impossible, but at the same time, it is the truth. I am just another woman with thoughts, wants, needs and desires. I shop, eat, talk to friends, have career goals and dreams like anyone else. Just because my belief system is different doesn’t mean anything changes that. My belief system forces me to take a better look at myself and want to improve for the sake of benefiting those around me, and I hope that my art can capture that.

This piece here, entitled “War Paint,” references the idea of “Holy War.” However, it has nothing to do with outward religious aspects. It is meant to be a commentary on the war of the self, conquering inner demons and demanding and expecting more from yourself. It’s about being human. Feeling weighed down by what the world can throw at you, but never giving up the ability to persevere.

I feel this conveys an important natural aspect concerning all women–that no matter what our racial, ethnic, or religious background, that we all have this unshakable ability to persevere in even the most dark situations, and that we are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

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