Asya Abdrahman was inspired by her travels to West Africa, particularly the music and color traditions of the Gnawa people, to create these colorful spiritual paintings.
During my travels to west Africa I discovered that Islam is extremely diverse in expression, practice and even music. The first time I heard Gnawa music, I felt my heartbeat matching the rhythm and felt compelled to translate my experience into painting.
I use various materials; paper and wood because of its abundance, versatility, and its precious tree source. I use brushes and my hands to smear oil and oil based paints on my work because of how significant oil is as a resource in this time. I apply heat to create the textured energy within my images and finally dust with iridescent pigments. The dust reflects allowing my work to be perceived differently in changing light conditions.
Gnawa music uses all five of the human senses including two more, which are intellect and intuition. There are seven colors of Gnawa of which each have a veil, a sound, a dance, a trance and a scent. A meal preceeds the night of Gnawa music which is known as a Lila. Gnawa music is a rich repertoire of ancient African Islamic spiritual religious songs and rhythms. Its well preserved heritage combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing. The music is performed at "Lila's", entire communal nights of celebration, dedicated to prayer and healing, guided by the Gnawa Maalem and his group of musicians and dancers. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan West-Africa, its traditional practice is concentrated in Morocco and the Béchar Province in South-western Algeria.
The following is a poem I wrote about The Seven Colors of Gnawa; each color corresponds to a painting.
to a wondrous world of majestic mystics,
of luminous hues,
of transcendent trances and of enchanting
Welcome to a kinetic anthology,
an aesthetic story,
a fantastic fairytale of the nostalgic times of yore
Welcome to the truth and belief of
WHITE symbolizing peace, death, happiness, and the noble friend of knowledge
Welcome to that mysterious shade
BLACK. Feel! Sense! Observe its paradoxical power - its secrecy - its protection
Welcome to the calming
LIGHT BLUE of the elevated skies which leap towards empyrean
Welcome to the fluttering delight of new love's hue,
RED. At first so sweet - gently unfurling - spiraling into a raging force
Welcome to the depth of
DARK BLUE submerged into a sea of fluidity
Welcome to the healing energy of GREEN.
A relaxing balance of hope, renewal, and freedom
Welcome to the wise feminine
SAFFRON of joyful sunshine, sparkling laughter, and an emissary of intellect through the ages