Today we would like to share the inspiring story of Khaula Mazhar, who is an award winning artist at Khaula Mazhar Arts, on how and why she chose to be an artist. In her own words:

I was born in Canada, was a teenager and parents were like “she’s going to run away with a white boy” as though white boys were lining up at the door for their geek misfit of a daughter. We went to Pakistan where I was supposed to make all my parents lost and broken dreams come true and restore some form of glory to them. Did not happen. Got married, had five kids instead.

I came home to Canada and now all my kids were in school full time. I started looking for jobs, it was way harder than I thought: nothing was available; I didn’t have the right experience; I needed to go back to school; child care was going to cost me a fortune. I was a citizen but my husband was not and he couldn’t work until he got his PR card. I started having panic attacks. What would happen when we ran out of the little money we had? I finally got something through family friends and worked some shifts as a receptionist. Unfortunately, I had a really bad experience with them, and couldn’t continue. It was just enough time however for my husband to get his PR card and find a job. I relaxed a bit. Now I had time to figure out what I could do. I did this by snacking a lot and watching Pakistani drama serials. Don’t judge me, potato chips can be pretty inspirational sometimes. I soon gained ten pounds of inspiration.

I painted some stuff and posted it on Facebook and a friend said I should exhibit my work. I thought she had lost her marbles. She recognized that due to lack of socialization I might have lost my marbles. So she added me to this group called Muslim Moms of Mississauga and I was just ok whatever.

Before long, my phone was pinging like someone on crack was playing a pinball machine. There was a hub of activity going on right under my nose and I didn’t know it. The Muslim moms group gave me a place to ask questions, I had been out of Canada so long I no longer knew how this place worked. It gave me options to meet other ladies for coffee and shit talk about our awful in-laws and grumpy husbands.

At some point I realized I was still lost though. The kids had their own stuff going on with school and friends, my husband had tons of friends and of course his job. For the first time I wasn’t even sure who I was. What was my life besides just cooking, cleaning and taking care of everybody? Was that all I was? Just a caretaker with no sense of myself? Everyone had their own life but me. I needed to do something and I struggled with trying to find out who I was and what I wanted. I fought depression and the looming thoughts of being a lonely, forgotten nobody as my kids would grow up and live their own lives, leaving me behind. I felt trapped and isolated. That’s when the buzz about MuslimFest started on the group and the girl who told me I should exhibit sent me a link and pestered me to enter. I worked on my first body of art work, it represented a lot of my anxiety and struggle to keep my faith that God hadn’t forgotten about me. I sold my first piece of work ever from MuslimFest at that exhibition. I started to share my hobby on the group and the feedback and enthusiasm for my work really motivated me.

But best of all, the group gave me opportunities. It introduced me back to writing. When there was a call out on the group for writers wanted for the Muslim Moms.ca website, the same member, Naima Nabeel (the friend from the apartment) again tagged me on the post. Erum Zehra asked me to write for the website. That is how I met my future friends. I am sure they rue the day. Whatever, they are stuck with me now. It opened up more avenues and I found one thing lead to another, my art was soon taking off, another group member, Kiran Moid, had contacted me and convinced me to try teaching an art class. In fact, she set it up for me. Suddenly I had the motivation and fearlessness to go out and see what the world had to offer me. I have not looked back since and I am forever grateful to the women who pushed me to challenge myself, Naima Nabeel, Kiran Moid and Erum Zehra.

To all the girls who were told that art is not an option as a career choice, you have to question yourself. Are you willing to pursue that passion knowing you will put in blood, sweat and tears and there may be no other return than the satisfaction of having created something amazing? If yes, then please ignore the naysayers and pursue your creativity. Do you need to go to school for art? No. You can develop your skills on your own, and they don’t teach you the hustle in school. That is something that you have to learn yourself. Trust me you have to hustle, you have to put yourself out there and keep putting yourself out there till you start to get noticed. If you are an introvert) like I am) this will be the most difficult thing to you will ever do. But I promise it will be worth it.