Muslim women artists showcase their talents at a local craft showWritten by Mahwash Fatima
Three hijabis and a niqabi, were among 60+ vendors who set up tables at the Library and Archives Building in Downtown Ottawa on July 13. This was not an Eid Festival event, nor was it part of fundraising function or a picnic organized by a Muslim organization.
These Muslim women -- owners of three different businesses: Maham's Boutique, Rana Art, and Sobia Halal Cakes ”“ set up their stands at the Artisans@the Archives craft show organized by the Ottawa Valley Crafts and Collectibles (OVCC).
It was the first time that artist Rana Issa and Maham's Boutique -- which creates designer hair accessories for toddlers and teenagers ”“ were participating in the OVCC craft show. Muslim participation is rare at large, mainstream exhibitions, says Sobia of Halal Cakes. Unless it is a Muslim event, she is usually the only Muslim vendor at an event like the OVCC.
Sobia thinks this is because Muslims may be unaware of such shows happening in the city or that they are more comfortable doing business within their own community.
Having to answer questions about their faith or dress is another thing that puts many Muslims off from participating in these shows. But for Sobia dealing with such queries was a positive learning experience. She says she was questioned, very politely, by almost everyone who came to her table, about what the term “Halal” (Islamically permissible) meant. And she was very happy to explain the concept. It also made her think about having some material on her table next time to give people more information about the term.
Rene Trim, founder and organizer of OVCC, says in his experience, Muslim vendors usually “participate once and then they disappear”. He says he is happy that the three Muslim businesses will be returning for another show from Nov. 23 ”“ 24.
Contrary to the common assumption that these sorts of shows are either too expensive or not welcoming to Muslim vendors, participation in craft shows in no more expensive than participating at a Muslim event. And if the experience of these Muslim women who participated in the OVCC is anything to go by, it can also be a very pleasant experience.
These women had nothing but wonderful things to say about their participation. The show was well organized and people were very interested in their products and offered encouragement. Overall, customers were friendly and fellow vendors were warm and helpful. Some of them even offered tips and advice to these newbies for future craft shows.
There are many Muslim women and men who are good with crafts or know how to create things by hand. What they do not know, however, is that there is a big market right here in Ottawa/Gatineau for handcrafted designs.
If you are someone who is good at wood-working, jewelry-making, crochet, knitting, or any other handicraft; craft shows can be a great place to sell your products and network with like-minded people.
For more information on the OVCC show visit: http://www.ovccshow.com
You can check out the Muslim women's businesses mentioned in this article at their business websites:
Maham's Boutique: www.mahamsboutique.com
Rana Art: ranaart.weebly.com
Sobia Halal Cakes: www.halalcakes.ca
Mahwash Fatima is a momtrepreneur and owner of Maham's Boutique.
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