This month Muslims across the capital are observing Ramadan, the most sacred period on the Islamic calendar – Ramadan is is the fourth pillar of Islam and is observed by fasting from dawn to dusk and prayer.
In London alone there are over one million practicing Muslims, but that only accounts for a small fraction of the religions’ estimated 1.8 billion followers – with each country observing the holy month in their own unique and wonderful way.
London-based digital designer Natasha Ahmed is shining a light on the different ways Ramadan is observed by Muslims across the world.
The 24-year-old has built up a reputation on Instagram for her eye-catching colour palette and unique blend of popular culture and current fashion trends, but this project was “special”.
“I’m a proud British Muslim and the opportunity to align my passion and my faith was always one that I was going to grab with both hands.
She added: “Ramadan is such a joyous time of year and I feel like it is often misunderstood by those outside of the religion. I hope that I can show people its beauty through my art.”
Natasha who is of Muslim faith and Bangladeshi descent was raised in the lively, multi-cultural city of Leicester. The designer spent most of her life there up until the age of 18 when she moved to London to study Digital Design at Brunel University.
Natasha illustrated four of the images that accompany WorldRemit’s Ramadan campaign, with art featuring the likes of Morocco, Somalia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. The other countries that feature in WorldRemit’s campaign are Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.
“It was a learning experience for me too,” she admitted.
“Being Bangladeshi, I’ve spent my entire life seeing Ramadan and Iftar [the evening meal eaten to break fast] through that specific experience.”
“There is a lot of overlap between us and our fellow South Asian countries, like India and Pakistan so I was already fairly familiar with their practices”
“However, I also thought that it was important to make sure that Black and African Muslims were represented in my art. I did a lot of research on countries like Somalia and Morocco and gained so much insight into their traditions.
“Whilst there are some constants throughout Ramadan globally, there are also a lot of differences due to the influence and merging of cultures. Every Ramadan celebration is different.”
Like many other money transferring organisations, World Remit is used as a means of sending money to loved ones in other countries who are in need of financial support.
A spokesperson for World Remit said: “As a global organisation, WorldRemit has always had a deep connection with the Muslim community, from our diverse staff with whom we work daily, to customers around the world who use our services to make fast and safe international payments.
“It’s amazing to learn about the different Ramadan traditions practiced by Muslims around the world. These pieces of art illustrate them beautifully, really capturing what it means to everyone practicing Islam.”
Natasha’s passion for designing was evident from an early age, but it was almost something that she didn’t end up pursuing because of uncertainty about how her parents would react. Fortunately for the young designer her parents were fully on board with helping nurturing her talent.
“I almost ended up studying English because I thought it was what my parents would want, but they knew that it wasn’t what I had my heart set on and encouraged me to study digital design.
Over the course of four years, Natasha honed her skills and made the transition from hand-drawn pieces to digital art. She currently uses a combination of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Procreate on her iPad to create her art.
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Since graduating from university, Natasha has amassed an impressive following of nearly 40k on Instagram and balanced freelancing with a successful career as a Digital Designer.
“I am so grateful for the amount of support that I received for doing something that I love. For me it’s never been about the number, but the impact. I just want to reach as many people as possible with my work and hopefully inspire them to express their own creativity.”
“However, social media has also afforded me amazing opportunities like this where I can showcase my faith and personality, it’s not something that I take for granted in the slightest.”
Whilst Leicester born designer has always injected her personality in her art, she believes that her latest collection will be important for reasons beyond its creative shading and texture.
“Islam is often not represented in the best way in the media and I think a lot of that stems from not having enough voices from our community in positions to help correct some of these misconceptions.
“We are all human, people are flawed, but Islam isn’t.”
“No matter what country you go to, Ramadan is a time of unity, it’s about embracing one another, being at peace and joyful celebration.”
She added: “Things have changed a lot since I was younger and people in the UK have become a lot more educated on what Ramadan means to our community. Religious holidays like Christmas have always been a part of our tradition and now Diwali and Ramadan are being celebrated in the same way, it’s means everything to feel included.”
London-based digital designer Natasha Ahmed has teamed up with global payment company WorldRemit, to shine a light on the different ways Ramadan is observed by Muslims across the world.