Creative expression needs courage: Muniba Mazari
Muniba Mazari has had quite the journey. Artist, motivational speaker, humanitarian, television anchor and mother. Muniba hasn't shied away from speaking the truth on multiple platforms. For those of you who might not have heard of Muniba, watch her Ted Talk (more than a million people have) where she very honestly talks about a car accident that left her paralysed and wheel-chair bound 10 years ago.
Muniba's story isn't about when, where, how and why this happened to her. The story is about her journey of recovery and discovery. The most inspiring thing about Muniba's talk, and how she navigates her life today, is the lesson that despite society's view of how we should confirm and exist, we can still create and be exactly what we want to be. And Muniba has achieved this.
She is a globally acclaimed motivational speaker, having delivered talks on prestigious forums like TEDx, Global Leadership Conference, VCon and many others. She is Pakistan's first woman Goodwill Ambassador to the UN. She was one of BBC's top 100 women for 2015 and was featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016.
Muniba is also an artist. With the firm belief that art is the perfect medium for story telling, her artistic endeavors have earned her acclaim not only in Pakistan but across the world. Many of her paintings revolve around her own life story and her interactions with women.
Ahead of her first international exhibition here in Dubai, we spoke with Muniba about her influences, inspirations and her daily mantra.
Muniba will be in Dubai for her exhibition, And I choose to Live on September 22-23. An initiative by Poetic Strokes, you can view her work at the Pakistan Association Dubai in Oud Metha.
What barriers do you see people setting up for themselves all the time?
The biggest barrier is self-doubt. When you fall prey to it, nobody can save you. And if you believe in yourself then nothing can stop you.
Do you think everyone should engage in some kind of art?
Creative expression needs a lot of courage. To me art is a beautiful escape. As we all need that one medium to express ourselves without saying much, I chose art because I could paint my thoughts without describing them in words. Some people write, some make melodies. So, if you want to find yourself, create.
How do you think attitudes towards people with disabilities can change?
A little more kindness and a little less judgement is all we need to change this mindset. And to those who are differently abled, it's my request to you all: Step out and face the world. It won't be easy but it surely will chalk out ways for those who are afraid to do it!
Do you have a daily mantra?
Everyday I wake up and say Alhumdolillah. That's my daily mantra.
How do you deal with rejection?
I call them "Blessings in Disguise". People, opportunities and plans that are not meant for you won't stay. So, don't cling onto them, let them go and make some room for bigger blessings because what's meant to be, will find its way to you and will stay!
What message would you like people to take away from your journey?
Be grateful! When we start to appreciate what we have, big or small, instead of crying for what we've lost, our lives become so much better. We become happier, kinder and more humane. Be a giver! Believe in the power of sharing because the more you give, the more you receive. You want to be happy, make someone smile. You think you are in pain, help someone who's in pain and you'll forget yours. Last but not least, be human!
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My mother. She's my hero, my strength. The one who believed in me when I was at the verge of despair, who kept reminding me of this most powerful truth at every step: "This too shall pass because nothing lasts forever!" As a speaker I've always looked up to my mentor Sarmad Tariq. He is not in this world anymore but his words still echo in my head. "I'm glad to know that you want to follow me but I'd say don't! Because if you will follow me you won't be the first one to reach the destination. So, choose your own way and be your own hero!"
Your paintings mostly depict women. Are these women you know? What's the story or theme behind your work?
No matter who we are or whatever part of the world we belong to, I feel we women are all connected. Our struggle to live our lives to the fullest, our fight to get our basic rights and our passion to dream big connects us all. So, I paint myself, I paint all the women who are trying to overcome their fears and those who are striving to achieve their goals all around the globe.
Which artists have had the greatest influence on your work?
I'm one of the biggest admirers of Sir Saeed Akhtar. To me his work is unprecedented. I love Thomas Fedro's work specially for its vibrant colours. Last but not least the artist that I connect the most with is Frida Kahlo. She once said 'Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?' Nothing sounds more relatable (to me) than this.