Young Artist Competes to Create a MasterpieceWritten by Chelby Daigle
Sarah-Mecca Abdourahman, 15, is preparing to compete in the Ottawa Art Battle Regional Finals, a live painting competition where artists have only 20 minutes to create a masterpiece. Audience members move around their easels as they work and at the end of the round, the audience votes for their favourite painting. Sarah-Mecca will be the youngest artist competing in Ottawa. She is a finalist in the Art Battle she competed in in March, and will be competing as a member of a select group of All-Stars chosen by the event organizers at the regional finals. The artists are competing for a spot in the Art Battle Finals in Toronto this July.
Morgan Booth, herself an Art Battle veteran, is one of the competition’s lead organizers. “When we received her application, we were excited about the work because it is really good,” Morgan explained, “We do work with young artists but they have to be good and Sarah-Mecca is definitely at that calibre.”
Morgan recognizes that Art Battle can be very intimidating for young artists, “One of the challenges of Art Battle for any young artist is that it is open to everyone, so we have people who are like Sarah’s age and just starting and we have established artists who are 76. So you are competing with people who have a lot more experience. But that also creates a great learning opportunity.”
Sarah-Mecca studies in De La Salle High School’s Visual Arts program. She has had access to the art world from an early age. Her mother, Shelina Merani, who studied Fine Arts at the University of Laval, used to be an Educational Officer at the National Art Gallery where Sarah-Mecca attended arts summer camps.
Her mole-skinned notebook is full of her sketches of people’s faces, from those of friends and family, to strangers she’s seen or portraits she’s found on the internet. She is particularly interested in drawing the faces of seniors. “I just like old faces. I find them pretty in a way. I find young faces a bit boring, there’s not much to it,” she explained. “I was worried my work was becoming too realistic and that was boring and frustrated me,” she explained. But she discovered that she could challenge herself by mixing realism with abstract images. She has found that the culture of De La Salle’s arts program has supported her in focusing on developing her work. Sarah-Mecca making a sketch of Tariq Ramadan.
But she has found it challenging to be open about her talent in the Muslim community. At last year’s Expressions of Muslim Women event, Sarah-Mecca was only permitted to show a small selection of her work because of her focus on the human face. “I don’t like putting my art on display in a place where I’m not allowed to show the pieces I’m really proud of. The things they let me show, I didn’t really like,” she explained.
The religious permissibility of whether Muslims can create images of humans has been fiercely debated for centuries, so being a young Muslim artist who is drawn to the human face presents a serious challenge. But she has been encouraged recently. At the last Reviving the Islamic Spirit Conference, she did a sketch of Tariq Ramadan that he really liked and took home. She was also recently awarded the Hitsolutions and Muslim Link Arts Award through the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC)’s EMAAN Scholarship. She received the award based on a wider selection of her art work. So she feels that there is still some hope that she can build a bridge between her artistic life and her Muslim community life.
The Ottawa Art Battle Finals take place on Saturday, June 28th from 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm at the Ottawa Convention Centre, 55 Colonel By Drive. Tickets are $20.
To view Sarah-Mecca’s art visit her Instagram page http://pinsta.me/thesmecca
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