[Interview] Fatimah Agha on her project Quran for Kids that aims to inspire and motivate children around the world

Fatimah Agha’s new venture Quran for Kids aims to instil the love of the Quran into children who usually run away from it, through a creative series of¬†podcasts and videos.

She recalls her own childhood where the Quran plunged her into a “world of wonders”, as she searched for answers to intriguing questions, such as the fascinating stories of past Prophets and personalities, or amazing facts about the animal kingdom. Yet the Quran lessons she received were not at all engaging causing her to resent it.

Triggered by her own childhood experiences, and her two young daughters Zainab and Zahra, Fatimah began Quran for Kids. This is a series of ten minute podcasts almost everyday, where Fatimah and her two daughters explore different verses and extract lessons from the Quran.

Read my interview with Fatimah as she shares her top tips in producing compelling audio and visual content, her ideas for podcasts and videos, and the challenges in her work and how she overcomes them.

Why did you start Quran for Kids? What and/or who inspired you?

I wanted to inspire my children to be fascinated by the Quran, and it would be a mistake on our part to not introduce the Quran to our children in a good way.  We as parents, teachers and mentors have a great responsibility to instil the love of truth in our children. Quran is a manifestation of the truth and as modern day educationists and scientist would agree, that first impressions need to be curated with great deliberation.

“Whatever touches my heart in my everyday routine and through my personal interaction with my children is what inspires me to prepare each podcast.”

Quran for kids is an effort to not only create a beautiful bond between children and the Quran but also the point  where we can unite as Muslims. We need to instil love of humanity and unity in the coming generations and I use this forum to make sure that all of our children can unite through the Quran.

How do you come up with ideas for your videos?

I like to pick out Quran ayats (verses) that are relevant to children’s everyday practices of good manners mostly, but now for example we are exploring the lives of the Prophets. Whatever touches my heart in my everyday routine and through my personal interaction with my children is what inspires me to prepare each podcast. We look forward to doing more videos in the future.

A snapshot of Quran for Kids Video on YouTube

A snapshot of Quran for Kids Video on YouTube

What are the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge while preparing a 10-minute, talk that includes my 9 and 6 years old daughters is to do it in a way that we don’t need to edit it. This is because this way the conversation stays natural and not artificially planned.

“We need to instil love of humanity and unity in the coming generations and I use this forum to make sure that all of our children can unite through the Quran.”

At the same time my aim is for my own kids to enjoy it and that wouldn‚Äôt happen if we keep rehearsing or keep on redoing it.¬† I don‚Äôt want my kids to get affected by some sort of “fame fever” or lose their focus from their own lesson and worry too much about creating a perfect show.

The best way to juggle all of that is to make sure that we plan the lesson a little bit before the recording and also that I’m well rested and fresh to take on each podcast, because siblings are siblings and some days are good and some days not so good. You know what I mean.

What advice would you give to others creating similar videos?

Although my current focus is on podcasts, the most important thing with kids is to keep the duration short and sweet, and include information and material, which keeps the children hooked.

Words, expressions, even examples should be pertaining to the things that children can associate themselves with. For instance names of cartoons, fashion trends or activities that most kids can relate to in their everyday routine can help keep their attention.

“There is nothing correct or incorrect with art.¬†Passion and dedication can be enough sometimes!”

Monologue can be a real turn off, so more interactive the show the better with lots of lows and highs in voice to break the monotony that can sound like a lecture. Even psychologists have shown it scientifically that our system of attention adapts to monotones and switches off.

What inspired in you the love of painting and what do you need to be a good artist?

I‚Äôve loved painting since I was a kid. I’ve never really took special classes but I was a keen student and I observed my art teachers closely. I remember trying to replicate great paintings or works of mentors. I would keep trying until I would perfect that technique. Nowadays YouTube and Google can ¬†help one enhance and learn from scratch. Passion and dedication can be enough sometimes!

I always tell my children there is nothing correct or incorrect with art. However taking art classes where they teach various techniques with use of brushes, papers and even special chemicals can really help to enhance painting skills.

Can you share an image of your favourite painting?

Artist Fatimah Agha

Fatimah Agha’s favourite painting – inspired by nature.

I love this painting the most because nature has always inspired me. I want my work to expand the imagination, and include the love of God in everything  and everywhere. I believe that art and Islam should help to unite us and broaden our view of the world.

… And your favourite or most popular podcast/video and why?

I really enjoyed this podcast Quran For Kids #3 Lets Understand Others because this is what I mainly feel passionate about and want to spread to the world: a message of peace love and unity which comes from the Quran.

Last but not least, what do you think of Sufi Comics?

Sufi Comics was like a dream project coming alive. It really gave me this hope that this world is full of new ideas and opportunities. Ideas can be made to come to life. I am in awe of Sufi comics and a die-hard fan. Even though my daughters are young they too love Sufi comics and read them no matter how deep. So far the Wise Fool of Baghdad is their favourite. We really look forward to more from Sufi comics.

Passionate and involved in creative arts and religious studies from a young age, Fatimah is always seeking new ideas and opportunities to implement her creativity. She is an artist and painter, having sold over 200 paintings for kids around the world. She has also been a fashion designer for the past six years, designing a wide range of modest clothing.  At the moment she is pursuing a degree in Psychology online from California Southern University.

Follow the Quran for Kids podcasts here
Check out¬†Fatimah’s website/online shop for more creative work¬†

Have you read our previous interview with creative artists? Check them out here!

[Giveaway] Win the entire Sufi Comics Collection!

Sufi Comics Giveaway

Enter the Giveaway to Win the Entire Sufi Comics Collection!

Enter the Sufi Comics giveaway to win signed copies of the entire collection!

The Books will be signed by the Authors & Artists, and shipped to you in any part of the world.

The prizes are three books,¬†40 Sufi Comics, The Wise Fool of Baghdad and Sufi Comics ‚Äď Rumi.

We would love for you to enter the giveaway to get a chance to win. All that is required is to pop in your email address on the giveaway page, and share the giveaway link with as many people as you can to increase your chance of winning.

Click here to enter the giveaway

Once you’ve entered make sure that you share it on your social media platforms, email, and forward to as many people as you can.

You could share the following message: “Enter the @SufiComics #giveaway to #win the entire collection! http://goo.gl/ktU9ox

Let us know when you’ve entered by tweeting us or in the comments below.

Best of luck!

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Announcing: Our next Sufi Comic Book

Rumi Inner Peace

Sufi Comics ‚Äď Rumi, the first of its kind to illustrate the poems of Rumi in graphic form.

Our wonderful readers have written fantastic¬†reviews¬†on Amazon, blogs, and newspapers, and we’ve received great feedback giving us some new food for thought.

Here are some of those reviews:

Rumi on Colours of My Life

Review and Interview on Positive Provocations

Rumi the Persian poet’s life and verses get the comic-book treatment on The National

Sufi Comics Rumi by Dr. Kristian Petersen.

To everyone who has enjoyed reading Sufi Comics РRumi

We’re pleased to announce¬†that we’re working on the second volume!

And guess what? We’re now ¬†nearly halfway in its completion. The stories have been shortlisted, the storyboards completed, and we are well underway with completing the penciling, inking and coloring of the comics.

We’ll be launching Rumi volume 2 at Comic Con Delhi 2015.

New techniques and art styles

These are the titles of some of the stories we’re covering.

  • Moses & the shepherd
  • Keep your heart awake
  • All through the night God is calling us
  • Fasting

Our artist Rahil is really pouring his heart out to make this book even better and more exquisite than before.

His designs are so much¬†more intricate¬†and his art even more¬†detailed in this volume. ¬†I really look forward to share Rahil’s¬†art work & process in future posts.

Watch this space for sneak peeks and updates!

Photos from Comic Con Bangalore 2015

We were at Comic Con Bangalore 2015, where we got a chance to share the books with a whole lot of new people! Take a look at the photos below:

2015-04-05 16.18.39 2015-04-05 16.24.09-s 2015-04-05 16.32.37 2015-04-05 18.16.18 2015-04-03 12.10.17 2015-04-03 16.01.26 2015-04-04 12.31.37 2015-04-05 14.54.07 2015-04-05 15.34.03 2015-04-05 15.34.33 2015-04-05 16.17.11

[Interview] Katie Miranda on how her passion and experiences led her to make unique jewelry and draw powerful cartoons

[Katie Miranda Studios] Expressing faith through handmade Arabic calligraphy and gemstone jewelry

Katie Miranda makes handmade Arabic calligraphy and gemstone jewelry

Katie Miranda is making statements, from designing authentic Arabic calligraphy jewelry, to drawing political cartoons that challenge power and dominant narratives.

In 2005, Katie left California for Palestine where she lived in the West Bank for three years dividing her time between being a human rights worker, political cartoonist, and an art teacher for kids. During this time she also studied Arabic calligraphy in Ramallah, with master calligrapher Ehab Thabet. Later in 2010 she started her own Arabic calligraphy jewelry business, and founded Katie Miranda Studios.

An individual with¬†authentic experiences and talents, her work has been featured in the¬†International Museum of Women’s art, Al Jazeera, Mondoweiss, amongst numerous outlets nation-wide.

Read on as Katie reveals how she became a jewelry designer and political cartoonist, the issues she is passionate about, and her top tip to artists.

Please share a bit about your background, work and passions.

I came from a secular family with one parent of a Christian background and one parent of a Jewish background. I always self-identified as Jewish although I wasn’t religious. In 2010 I converted to Islam.

I’m a painter, cartoonist and a jewelry designer. I have a BFA and an MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I studied illustration and graphic novels. I also studied with master calligrapher Ehab Thabet in Palestine in 2007 and 2008.

I love great design, comics, color theory, sacred geometry and of course jewelry !

How did you become a jewelry designer and a political cartoonist? What qualities and skills do you need to pursue these respectively?

I became a jewelry designer by accident. I took a metal smithing class at the Academy of Art and I loved it. I decided to combine those skills with calligraphy to produce my Arabic calligraphy jewelry line.

I got into cartoons because I was trained as an illustrator and I had strong opinions so political cartoons was a natural outlet for those two interests.

¬†“Those who stand in the fire, who don‚Äôt quit, who ignore rejection are the ones who actually do become artists.”

If someone is interested in pursuing any artistic discipline seriously and successfully you have to have passion for it and drive. Anyone can learn to be an artist through practice, dedication, and repetition. Those who actually do, who stand in the fire, who don’t quit, who ignore rejection are the ones who actually do become artists.

People often tell me ‚ÄúI have no natural talent, I could never be an artist.‚ÄĚ This way of thinking is misguided. The people who actually become artists aren‚Äôt necessarily those with natural talent. They‚Äôre the ones who don‚Äôt quit even if they have to draw stick figures for a year before being able to draw anything that looks remotely like a human figure.

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[Interview] Daniel Dyer on his new project ’99 Names of Allah’ that aims to awaken children’s innate empathy & creativity

 

Chickpea Press aims to publish engaging, contemporary and imaginative books.

Chickpea Press aims to publish engaging, contemporary and imaginative books.

Daniel Dyer is co-founder of Chickpea Press.

Daniel Dyer is co-founder of Chickpea Press.

Passionate to share the love and wisdom that is at the heart of Islam and other spiritual traditions, Saimma and Daniel Dyer of Chickpea Press are working hard on a new book.

‚ÄėThe 99 Names of Allah‚Äô creatively introduces younger readers to names that describe God, complemented with sacred traditions, activities, and reflections.

I ask Daniel Dyer, the illustrator behind this colourful guide about what makes this book unique, how they have explored Islamic spirituality, and how we can help bring this book to life.

What inspired this book?

The beauty and power of the Names drew me. Something also told me that children need to explore them ‚Äď not just adults. It began as a simple poem to orientate children to the Names, and then evolved into something much broader and, insha’Allah (God willing), much deeper.

What is unique about ‘The 99 Names of Allah’ book?

I don’t know of any children’s book in English that explores the 99 Names of Allah in way that I would wish for my children. For me, an exploration of the Names needs to be centred on the heart, on awakening children’s innate empathy, creativity and insight. It needs to help children to understand Allah’s attributes and to appreciate the places where these attributes are best reflected: in themselves and the natural world.

As well as helping to foster a spiritual and ecological awareness, it needs to help them appreciate the diversity of modern societies.  It should help them identify with all humanity, not just Muslims, and perhaps help them to appreciate that there is more than one path to God. It also needs to be imaginative, colourful and richly illustrated in order to really engage.

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