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Artist Spotlight Mahnoor Ahmed: On Representing Pakistani Beauty

By Bharati Kondepudy

In this week's Artist Spotlight, we speak to Mahnoor Ahmed, an artist with a passion for representing brave, strong and beautiful desi Pakistani women.


Tell us a bit about you, the person behind the work we see.

I have studied graphic design but always had a great interest in drawing. I used to draw since i was a kid and that's what led me to be a full-time illustrator eventually. I am 29 years old, married and have a little girl. I create these illustrations for my girl to grow in a world where she can see how women matter.

Your illustrations are bold and beautiful. I noticed that you use a select colour palette. How did you develop this unique style?

I always liked vintage illustrations with lots of textures. Halftones and inked illustrations are my style and the colour palette I use is adapted from my art style with time. Mostly dark intense colours.

How have your past experiences and environment influenced your art?

Living in Pakistan is never easy for a woman. I have been lucky that I haven't experienced a bit of what our women experience on a daily basis but I have observed, heard stories, news, etc which have always contributed to my art. My art is the only way I express myself.

Women's representation, particularly Pakistani women, is a major theme in your artwork. Why is it important for you to incorporate such themes in your work?

When I started making illustrations back in 2019, there were very few artists representing our culture as Desi Pakistani women. So to show the world how brave, strong and beautiful in their own skin our women are, I started making these artworks.

Your artwork often falls on the intersections of South Asian culture, identity and social issues prevalent in South Asian societies. What is your opinion on art being a vital medium for encouraging discussions on such matters?

For me, art is stronger than ever now, and because of social media, every artwork is seen and heard. It plays a very important role now. With our art, we can make the world see the better side of our society and the worst too.

Tell us about some of your favourite projects and/or collaborations in the past? Why are they your favourites?

So some of the artworks I loved working on were one with the WWF recently about planting trees in Karachi. It was great working with the team as they gave me full freedom to express myself and it was a little animation which was the first time for me. There was this artwork I did for global contraceptive care. Again they gave full freedom to express and it was a challenge for me to make something which our South Asian culture could digest as it is still a very taboo topic.

My favourite is the art series on the rishta parade system in our society. It was such an amazing series for me as I made it solely for myself and the girls going through it. I was lucky enough to go through this just a couple of times and my best friend came to my rescue and asked me to marry him. But I felt the misery which almost all the women in our society go through.

What does art mean to you?

Art for me is a tool to express myself. Whatever I am going through I mostly draw it. It has always been like this. It's my escape, it's my strength and it's my therapy. For me it's very personal and an expression of whatever I am going through which I chose to share with the world.

What’s next for you?

Up next I am working with a very renowned brand which I can't say at this time but I love when brands give you the freedom to create whatever you want to. It really fulfils the purpose of being an artist.

All artwork featured in the piece belongs to the artist. Find them on Instagram: @mahnoorahmad9


Artist Spotlight is a series where we highlight upcoming South- Asian artists in the creative space.



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