SHAFAQNA – Zaki Haider is a young up and coming digital artist and Festival producer with a substantial portfolio of online work, his style draws on Japanese Naruto and Deviant art which he uses to explore Muslim metaphysical traditions.
Narutopants in partnership with Arts Versa this weekend curated the launch of a major new touring Festival in Britain – the ‘Radical Extremes’. The initiative is part of an original new creative arts, cultural and media project designed to bring together an eclectic collection of artists, especially young Western Muslim artists. The organisers embarked on the project in order to use a variety of innovative creative tools to open up and explore the complex and difficult issues linked to extremist interpretations of Islam. The curator of the event is Zaki Haider, an accomplished up and coming digital Deviant Arts specialist who said that “the exhibition and festival set out to tackle difficult issues such as the religious justification of political violence, pathways to radicalization, international terrorism, counter-terrorism, marginalisation of women, and repression of human rights.”
Concomitantly the event explored authentic Islamic and religious responses to extremism which mobilise progressive and liberal interpretations, drawing on respected faith traditions that can effectively and creatively counter such extremist trends. The exhibitions team did not set out to offend or aggravate anybody but to inspire the spirit of creative enquiry.
The project used art to de-legitimize extremism on the one-hand, and celebrate progressive religious and spiritual ideals on the other, through a programme of exhibitions, spoken word gatherings, poetry recitals, creative displays, plays and other dramatic productions. Zaki Hayder added “the focus was on reclaiming the Islamic narratives that had been hijacked by takfirists, but I also wanted to encourage the creation of accessible spaces to explore Islam’s relations with other faiths and cultures and artistic media needs to be developed to provoke, entice, challenge negative stereotypes against Muslims.” Narutopants is a Deviant Art inspired project but this was Zaki’s first venture producing a festival of this scale and he was thrilled to be using art as a way of informing and educating the public about “what constitutes a more accurate picture of the splendid culture and spirit of Islam.”
The event was attended by many people on its opening day with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the public. One visitor saying ‘ it was a deeply eye opening experience which helped me to gain a completely different perspective. The Narutopants team says that after the successful launch they will continue touring the exhibition around the country in Mosques schools and Arts Centres in order to continue cultivating an open, artistic dialogue on issues surrounding extremism, faith, citizenship, religious and cultural identity, with a view to confronting head-on some of the most thorny and difficult aspects of political violence and terrorism, and to develop an inclusive creative vision of peace, co-existence and mutual understanding for British society and beyond through the artistic medium.