Eight months ago, Abbas Mohamed knew nothing about the art world.
Mohamed had received his master’s in pharmacology and toxicology, and gotten married in Pakistan, so it wasn’t until his long distance marriage with his wife, a painter, that he began to question if there was an exclusive space for Muslim artists.
With no answer to this, Mohamed started the Gathering All Muslim Artists collective, also known as GAMA. The nonprofit’s goal is to uplift and empower Muslim artists with spaces of their own: a closed Facebook group to network, and exhibits where they can sell and showcase their work.
Before fully establishing these spaces, Mohamed and his team had to fill them with interested artists. They used mosques and halal restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area as a site for exhibitions, and a way to get an artist’s work on the wall since both are places where people in the Muslim community congregate the most.
Given that this was unfamiliar territory for the organization, Mohamed started to think about what it meant to be classified as a Muslim artist. He said that when most people think of Islamic art, they think about calligraphy and geometry, but GAMA’s mission goes beyond two types of artistic styles.
“Anything created by a Muslim that is considered art, that they would consider art, we want to spotlight that,” he said to A Plus.
As GAMA began to gain traction in California, their Facebook group emerged and has allowed Muslims of all artistic backgrounds and levels to connect for encouragement and feedback.
Mohamed began to learn the ins and outs of the art world and realized that taking care of the people behind the art was his priority.
“Are [they] being nurtured?” he said. “Do they feel like they have what it takes to go to their next level in their own career?”
GAMA will celebrate its one-year anniversary in September, but the work is far from over. It’s just beginning to expand with an art exhibition at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, N.J., at the end of July and still raising funds for the organization. Along with that, the current political climate and a recent trip to an entrepreneurial conference in Malaysia has amplified Mohamed’s interest in giving Muslim artists a voice.
“This organization has the mass potential for healing and uniting in the political times we live in,” he said. “I think art has the capacity to heal, not only for the artist who creates it, but for the community at large as well.”