Fasting in Ramadan and Art Forge Deep Connection

Black and White photograph of African American woman holding a date in one hand and a cup of water in the next

Fasting and engaging with art are opportunities for deep connection

Nsenga Knight 2007, As the Veil Turns, 30 x 20 inches, 35mm photography/ Archival Inkjet Print

In this blog post I’m going to talk about fasting and art as opportunities to deepen our connection to our Creator, creation, and creativity. Firstly, let’s talk about what the Ramadan fast is. Right now, about 2 Billion people on this planet are detaching from food and drink from sunrise to sunset to observe the commandment in the Holy Quran to fast in Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th lunar month, in order to become more God-conscious.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five foundational pillars of Islam. As a Muslim, I adhere to this prescriptive. There’s no other reason that I would totally refrain from food or drink except to take advantage of this great opportunity to become more fully aware.

The goal of fasting itself is not to experience hunger and thirst; and there are even many Muslims who cannot fast. I believe that both art and fasting present the opportunities to become more conscious. Fasting in Ramadan however, is both an individualized spiritual and physical act is one of the most powerful and beneficial means to do so in community. 

Detach from norm, connect to the Creator and elevate

For most of us, it’s hard to detach from food or anything else we enjoy. However, in Ramadan it is necessary to do so in order to connect to Allah more deeply and elevate our spirituality. Similarly, in order to make art in my studio it’s also necessary for me to detach from the world in order to focus and move with inspiration. While looking at art, you are momentarily taken out of the circumstances that surround you. You are engaging with the world created by the artist, bi ithniAllah. This is an important opportunity because we are oftentimes so stuck in one way of thinking. Art gives us an opportunity to see possibility and alternatives.

Ramadan and art are both opportunities to take time away from what we would normally think of as the necessities of life. For instance, we normally think that we need to eat throughout the day in order to feel energized, but while fasting in Ramadan I generally feel more energized than on normal days. Although we do need food, we actually don’t need to eat it all day every day.

A lot of the times, we are actually using food as a distraction. Similarly, as an artist I can get inspired by almost anything. However, constantly consuming information is actually a distraction. Also, as an artist constantly engaging with people distracts from the ability to listen to ones own inner voice and create something that can be of value to others. In my studio practice, I ebb and flow between the detached solitude of artmaking in my studio and connecting to other people and building community through my social practice collaborations like my recent X Speaks performance art and social practice work.

Fall in love with the Truth

In conclusion, fasting in Ramadan and art are opportunities to connect more deeply to the truth of our Creator and our creativity. By doing so, we are able to connect and give more to creation with a deeper sense of belonging.

Right now I’m back to studio mode. Every time and space has its own special opportunity. On my Tawaf/ Sa’y: Mankind painting below I painted the words “Mankind In Love With the Truth” in white. These words are from the great Islamic scholar and revolutionary Ali Shariat’s memoir Hajj. Ramadan is a time to fall deeply in love with the words and speech of the Quran. Even moreso with Allah, the speaker.

The As the Veil Turns photographs and Tawaf/ Sa’y: Mankind are available to purchase as a signed limited edition print here on my website: https://nsengaknight.com/artwork-for-sale/.

Nsenga Knight 2018, Tawaf/ Sa’y: Mankind, 22.5 x 22.5 inches, Oilstick and Gesso on Vegetable Parchment Paper (available as Limited Ed Print)

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