From Barrowford to Qatar: Nelson artist taking world by storm

The pieces have been inspired by the Whirling Dervish.
The pieces have been inspired by the Whirling Dervish.
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From her Barrowford studio to the culture capitals of London, Melbourne, and Karachi, a Nelson-born artist has received widespread acclaim for her latest collection of work on exhibition in Doha, Qatar.

Already an award-winning artist in her own right, Shahida Ahmed has - as a third-generation British-Asian artist - drawn on a broad spectrum of cultures and traditional Islamic concepts to share her latest collection of work titled "Connected" in Katara, a cultural village in the Middle Easter country.

Shahida's artwork has been exhibited in Katara, a cultural village in Doha, Qatar.

Shahida's artwork has been exhibited in Katara, a cultural village in Doha, Qatar.

Shahida's pieces were primarily inspired by the Whirling Dervish - a famous Sufi order from Konya in Turkey founded by the followers of Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet and scholar - but also by the influence of her own travels and of poetry, harnessing the simplicity in colour and subject.

"It's quite an honour to be invited to exhibit in such a prestigious gallery," said the former Marsden Primary School, Edge End High School, and Nelson and Colne College student. "Rhythm and movement play an important part in my sculptures, paintings, and installations, as do shapes, geometry, and calligraphy.

"I have found inspiration in the poetry of Rumi, Islamic architecture, and signature symbols of Arabic culture - such as the Whirling Dervish - although my ideas are constantly evolving," Shahida added.

With a studio located in Higherford Mill in Barrowford and having done extensive work in the Pendle area, including starting the Hoopoe Club in 2006, a voluntary arts organisation for children aged four to 16, Shahida has received praise from Pendle MP, Andrew Stephenson in the past, and spoke of what a "great honour" it was to represent Pendle overseas.

Nelson artist, Shahida Ahmed, next to one of her paintings at an exhibition in Qatar.

Nelson artist, Shahida Ahmed, next to one of her paintings at an exhibition in Qatar.

"It has been my honour to know Shahida for many years now," said Andrew Stephenson MP. "Her passion for arts and education has been demonstrates on numerous occasions through her work, with her inspiring many through her projects.

"Through her passion to be an inspiration as a female Muslim, Shahida uses her art as a universal platform for developing and building communities," he added. I have had the pleasure to attend some of Shahida's exhibitions, and been left awestruck and inspired by her pieces."

Having put on an exhibition for Prince Charles in 2010 and had engagements with Prime Ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May to discuss the importance of using art as a universal dialogue to promote interfaith diversity, Shahida is flying the flag for using creativity to break down barriers and is constantly adapting to promote universality.

"[I] decided to change the signature on my art to the simple and anonymous pronoun ‘She’," said Shahida. "[This is] to denote a woman: no faith, colour, or culture, whose art was there to be freely interpreted by all."

Shahida's collection is called "Connected."

Shahida's collection is called "Connected."