Breathing new life to Mandala by incorporating Arabic art

RUQAYA AL KINDI –

Self-taught artist Firdaus Shafi is aware that mandala is still an unpopular form of art in the Sultanate. But this did not stop her from embracing this art form and embellishing it with something unique from her culture to create an even more layered, sophisticated style.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “magic circle.” Almost every culture all over the world uses mandala or circular images not only in their day to day lives but also in their spiritual practices.
For the Hindus and the Buddhists, “mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol… circular in design symbolising the notion that life is never-ending,” she said.
“The mandala art is a centring space for the self and the soul and art therapy tool for making order out of disorder,” she added.
While she holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Bradford, Firdaus has spent a lot of her time perfecting various artworks and designs testing out new methods to transform the beauty of this magic art.
“Recently, I’d been mixing mandalas with modern calligraphy. It’s a unique combination that has given me beautiful results,” she said.
“I started doing mandala art in 2016, banking on the precious talent I learned when I was still a child. I just accidentally came to know about this kind of art by surfing one of the Instagram accounts which belonged to one of the mandala artists outside the country,” she shared.

“From online tutorials, I learned the basics of this beautiful art. I slowly developed my skills and dedicated time to explore different artistic options. I also participated in many different art events inside and outside of Oman and these contributed to the improved level of my artwork quality,” she said.
Firdaus is currently known within her circle as a mandala artist and had been conducting workshops for art lovers both in Oman and abroad.
“The response I get and the positive reinforcement and acceptance of people to my art boosted my confidence that I am more comfortable now referring to my self as a full mandala artist,” she said.
For Firdaus, practising the art also gives her psychological comfort and tranquillity. She has her own ritual sharing, “I only draw while listening to soft music pieces with a cup of hot coffee within my reach. I also like working in dim light and can do so much drawing at night.”
For many of her pieces, she drew inspiration from the Indian culture and as of late, has been incorporating Islamic decorations, sometimes subtly and on other times, in the most noticeable manner.
“It helps me create better when I have inspiration. I conjure these beautiful images from my imagination, and once I see them painted, they help me develop my skills even more,” she said.
One of the most liked pieces from Firdaus’ collection is the “Pride of Oman” — one of the latest, detailed pieces she created which first appeared in the 22nd Youth Annual Exhibition for Fine Arts 2018, at the Omani Society for Fine Arts in December, and attracted public attention.
“It is one of my biggest mandala artworks till now. It best demonstrates what I am trying to do — mixing mandala art with modern calligraphy to make a unique combination. The idea behind it was to show the traditional Omani pendant in a modern way. It took me around two to three months to complete the piece,” she explained.
Artists in all fields face many challenges. For Firdaus, one of the challenges she faces until now is in searching for more information about this art and methods of painting and everything related to it.
The lack of information eventually led her to create her own techniques and finding her own raw materials. Firdaus lamented the lack of available materials in Oman that sometimes she has to order them from abroad. Not only the delivery period take so long, but she also finds it hard to get the right producer.
But Firdaus has no trouble transcending her material concerns. The massage that she wants to convey is the beauty and happiness are always hiding in those small details in our lives.
“I find happiness that when people see my work, they would think of me and know that it is my work,” she said.
She also shared that she cares a lot about the details.
“I add different materials rather than only using one colour or ink. It’s my way of creating my own artistic identity,” she said.
Firdaus challenges emerging artists not to be afraid of creating their own methods and painting styles. To her, artists are supposed to bring something new, something that wasn’t there before. She also said that one must strive to discover what one loves and continue to develop.