What 17-year-old artist Maliha Abbas has accomplished

Published: August 5, 2013
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Maliha Abbas, 17, wants to promote Pakistani culture to the world, teach art and work as an artist without going to art school. PHOTO: Jamaluddin.

Art is what gives a society its soul. It creates a shared communal feeling and transcends borders, classes and religions. If art gives society its soul, it’s the artists who give art its soul. The way they interpret things and put them on the canvas encourages discussion and forces us to reflect.

Maliha Abbas Abidi is one such artist whose works inspire reflection. Not only that, she also wants to promote Pakistani culture to the world, teach art to students and be an artist, without entering an art academy. She also recently gave a TEDx talk in Karachi.

And she is only 17.

I caught up with Maliha recently and we talked about her works and achievements.

Talking about herself she said:

“I am a person that tries to grab every opportunity that knocks on my door. I want to try everything in life. I am a self-taught artist mainly. I am an art teacher and a youth director of a drug abuse company in USA.”

At such a young age, it is indeed impressive.

Explaining further about her experience as an art teacher she says:

“I started teaching at the age of fifteen. I teach at a public library in USA. The librarian offered me the job herself after looking at my work.”

When discussing her ambitions she said:

“I want to become a well-known artist just without going to an art school. Spending four years in an art school can teach art to even a monkey. I want to learn it all on my own. I want to be my own teacher. I believe no one needs a teacher because everything is invented by someone who didn’t have a teacher to start with.”

I mentioned how she herself is an art teacher at such a young age. Not exactly, she explained:

“I let my students explore art themselves and I only help where needed. I want to give teaching a new face.”

Remembering her first art exhibition, she said that she had her first solo art exhibition at the age of 16 in San Diego, California;

 “On the first day more than 200 people showed up – which was amazing!”

She likes globetrotting and selling her art works to pay for travel and living expenses. And she travels alone.

When asked about her TEDx talk she said:

“TEDx talk experience was amazing – I cannot describe it in words. Great response, appreciative crowd and an awesome TEDx team. I talked about my achievements at the age of 17 and that I’m not like other teens. I’m not a book worm but I’m good at school, I am not a party animal but I have friends and a social life. I said that we should never give up on our dreams like I never will and I shared that I have tried many things but not everything”.

She also has a goal before she turns 18 this November.

“I want to do something for my country. I know many people from around the globe who think of Pakistan as desert village. So now I want to do an exhibition in USA to show the beautiful culture of Pakistan. I also want to display the modern side of Pakistan through the canvas”.

For young Pakistani artists Maliha advised:

“Listen to your heart. Paint what you feel like and for the all people who think they can’t paint, try it at least once because there is an artist in all of us. And never give up on your dreams.”

Achievements of Pakistanis like Maliha must be highlighted, because they are the face of Pakistan. In the daily avalanche of bad news, we should also see what young Pakistanis like Maliha Abbas are achieving and how they are trying to promote a softer, more moderate image of Pakistan.

There are many others like Maliha. Their inspirational stories must be brought to the fore.

Jamaluddin

Jamaluddin

A student of Information Systems Management at Latrobe University, Melbourne. He tweets @Einsjam (twitter.com/Einsjam)

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