Shehzil Malik is arguably one of the finest creative talents to come out of Pakistan in recent times. She has done a lot of other truly amazing work,& studied at Rochester Institute of Technology on a Fulbright Scholarship, Shehzil took out time to talk to The Pakistan Journal about inspiration, design, process and future plans.Shehzil has done various collaborations around the globe, her work speaks of her immense talent.
Who are you?
I am a woman, caffeine addict and designer/illustrator- in that order.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
I want them to see themselves reflected in the work, get excited, feel optimistic about Pakistan and see our lives as part of a larger global conversation on identity and gender.
How is your personality reflected in your work?
I draw based on my experiences so there’s a direct relation to my personality. I also love bright colours and bold lines and a total lack of subtlety, so that’s what my work ends up looking like.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
It means living with dignity where you feel like you are the decision maker in your own life; the choices you make are your own.
How do you think the fashion industry could empower women more?
By being more inclusive and showing women in all their diversity to change old perceptions of beauty and what is considered desirable. By employing more women, paying them fair wages being mindful of women with children and household responsibilities. By investing in their lives, their health and their education. This is true for every industry. Rather than putting the onus of social welfare solely on NGOs, all businesses should feel responsible to the community where they operate.
What’s one thing you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of being stubborn enough to not listen to everyone who told me I’m unrealistic, that my dreams were naïve and that this is not how things are done in Pakistan.
Tell me about the biggest achievement outside of work thus far.
Being friends with and loving people who I admire. They teach me to be a better person and feed me.
I love the quote in your bio — passionate about design for social change — can you expand on what that means to you?
Ever since I decided to become a designer, I wanted to see how design could be used to impact those around us. I wanted to create work that was meaningful. I keep changing what design for social change means for me- these days it has to do with representation and telling the stories of those who don’t have the access to tell their own.
Who are your favourite Pakistani illustrators?
There are so many but my top ones are Samya Arif, Sana Nasir, Rohama Malik, Mahoor Jamal, Areeba Siddique, Rahema Alam, Haris Hidayat Ullah, Sahar Ansari, Saad Khurshid and Amal Uppal.
What is the best thing about Pakistan?
You can never run out of stories to tell. Everyone somehow is holding onto a story that would curl your eyelashes.
What do you want more people to be discussing nowadays?
I think people are now discussing a bunch of things; I would now like to see some legislation that cements our ideas of gender equality, corruption-free governance and religious tolerance.
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
I’m going to steal a quote that I 100% believe in:
“The first step – especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money – the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.”
― Chuck Palahniuk
How was the experience working with GENERATION? How was the response?
Smooth sailing! They’re a bunch of like-minded creative women so we all let the other do what they’re best at. The response is pretty overwhelming; the collection was sold out pretty fast. I recently saw people wear some of the pieces on the Aurat March and that was very exciting! Could not have asked for a better context to the art.
5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
- Pakistani crafts, esp Ralli
- Springtime in Lahore (The best time of the year is upon us!)
- Architecture in Bahawalpur (It’s breath-taking)
- Akhtar Riazzuddin and Abida Malik- the women behind Behbud who should be known for their decades of service to Pakistani women
- Brazilian street art (The colours! The energy!)
A lesson you have recently learned?
Keep pushing yourself, keep changing how you do things, and stay motivated. You are only competing against what you were able to do yesterday.
What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
Collaboration with the amazing platform VIDA (www.shopvida.com) is due to release soon with an explosion of colours and badass women!
“Haya” When thinking about the representations of women in popular culture, it often hits me how we are seen through the eyes of men. This time I wanted draw a woman looking at the world; she is unconcerned with us looking at her. The camera in her hand changes the power dynamic from subject to protagonist. The text reads, “I want to look at this world through my own eyes.” From.#VIDAxShehzilMalik
What is your message to the women of Pakistan?
Realize how beautiful and capable you are; don’t take injustice as a given and silently suffering as your lot in life. Raise your sons and daughters with the same rules and expectations.
Throwback! #Repost @generation_pk • • • “GENERATION x Shehzil Malik”: With its graphic approach to female imagery, symbols and text, it celebrates the many ways of being a woman in Pakistan: there are women wearing scarves, having flowing hair, being dark-skinned, light-skinned, having tattoos, piercings, wearing local jewelry, biker jackets and shalwar kameez. #stepoutside #greaterthanfear #GENERATIONxShehzilMalik @shehzilm
What are your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?
Biggest strength: Being a workaholic.
Biggest weakness: Anxiety
How do you imagine yourself in 10 years?
With more grey hair.
Do you think the media plays an important role in bringing forward artists? Or it depends upon the person, that if you have skills you will be known by your work automatically?
I think most artists want to create their art and not have to worry about self-promotion and the work that comes with it. It’s great that the media sheds light on artists and gives them the visibility and access their work needs.