About the Cover Artist Fatima Zahra Hassan
It is an incredible honor for me to have the paintings by my cousin Zahra on the covers and chapter title pages of my debut book. I have fond memories of Zahra sitting on a floor cushion in her studio in Lahore diligently at work on a miniature painting. She would usually make me cardamom tea if it was winter or sattu (quenching roasted barley drink) if it was summer. It was only by watching her work did I realize how richly layered and dynamic the art of miniature painting really is. Zahra is an artist trained in Indian, Mughal, and Persian painting techniques. She paints, illustrates books, designs, and embellishes various surfaces. She specializes in the visual arts of Islam and South Asia with a focus on the art of the book. She has studied sacred geometry and Islamic patterns. Her work is greatly inspired by mystical writings of Islam, esoteric subjects and has strong allegories and metaphors. She was trained at the following prestigious institutions: the National College of the Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, the Royal College of the Arts in London UK and the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London UK.
I reached out to Zahra when I started putting Red & Crescent Moons together because the stories in her paintings resonated with me; their complexities and often mysterious nature reflected some of the themes in my poetry. Namely, I find inspiration in her interplay between the seen and unseen and in her juxtaposition of the ephemeral with the everlasting. The first time I saw Zahra's painting Assembly of Birds, the cover art for Red & Crescent Moons, I got lost in multiple layers of story. The title refers to the book length poem by the 12th century Persian Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar; in this poem Attar describes the lives and journeys of different birds on their search for the Divine and ultimate truth. Looking closely at the painting one can see birds who reside in the sky, seas, or land--each using different means of travel on their journeys. In my poems I often return to this idea of life’s journey and how we each have our own path, and that we each have our own way according to our own truths and capacities. I hope you take some extra time to examine Zahra’s painting, perhaps even with a magnifying glass, to get fully immersed. And I too hope that you take a moment to learn more about Zahra by visiting her web page fatimazahrahassan.com, her Instagram account @fzh_atelier and on Facebook @f.zahrahassan.