She has by now grown used to the hushed discussions on her "activity" among closed circles.

It is art not religion says Kerala Muslim artist exhibiting Krishna paintings at BJP meet
news Art Sunday, September 25, 2016 - 14:36

As visitors at the exhibition hall stop at her stall, look at the paintings and then at her with expressions of bewilderment, Jasna Saleem, an artist from Kerala’s Kozhikode district, hides her glee within her burqa.

24-year-old Jasna has put up her glass paintings for display at the venue of the BJP National Council meet in Kozhikode.

What makes many visitors’ foreheads crease with doubt and pushes others to come up and ask her about her paintings is that all her glass paintings are pictures of the deity Krishna.

Although it began in a spontaneous way, it is now a conscious decision to paint Krishna, Jasna declares. 

Speaking to The News Minute, Jasna says that though people are bound to see religion in her paintings, she wishes to see them purely as a form of art.

“For me, these are just pictures. But for people who discuss in hushed tones that it is inappropriate for a Muslim woman to draw images of Hindu gods, they don’t see art, but religion and differences in them,” Jasna says.

Jasna began drawing about a year and a half ago. Having come across a photo of Krishna, she attempted to sketch it. To her surprise, she found that she had artistic talent.

She has by now grown used to the hushed discussions on her "activity" among closed circles. 

Many would question her on the choice of her “subject”, to which she says, “If they are raising objections based on my religion, then I choose not to pay heed to them. My parents used to call me by the name Kanna since my childhood. After the initial oddity about this wore off, I soon grew used to it. That must be the reason why I found nothing unusual in painting him,” Jasna says.

A year after beginning to paint Krishna, Jasna gifted one of her paintings to BJP state President Kummanam Rajasekharan, a move that made her the subject of much local discussion. In the six months since, she has found that praise is not the only reaction to come her way. 

Her voice rises when she recounts an incident from a week ago when a doctor in her hometown Thamarassery refused to treat her six-year-old son. He told her that "he knew what I had done." 

"This Muslim doctor told me that he would not lay hands on my child, as if I had sinned by painting Krishna. By then people had grown familiar with my paintings and the doctor's outright refusal shocked me beyond measure. How can an educated doctor say this?" Jasna fumes. 

However, after refusing to leave the hospital and threatening to raise a complaint, the doctor gave way and agreed to treat her son, Jasna says. 

Would people have responded the same way if Krishna was only one of the many subjects she painted?  Jasna says, "I don't know, I haven't thought about it. What I do know is that though it was completely unplanned to paint Krishna, I will not stop doing so because of some people's opposition." 


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