I realize that everything happens for a reason.

When I was a little girl people would ask me “who do you want to be when you grow up?”
and I would always answer “an artist!”

I was born and raised in the beautiful archipelago of over a thousand coral islands known as the Maldives. Today, I live and work as a freelance artist in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

To many, I am known as just ‘Manje’; an endearment noun that is originally used to refer to young ladies in my native language. As a kid I had always been influenced by the arts and creative personalities around me. My father and uncles were avid hobbyist batik T-shirt painters, my mother took much pride is helping me to perfect my handwriting and calligraphy skills, and my grandfather and cousins were singers and songwriters. However, my parents believed that art was not worthy as a career choice and discouraged me to pursue it as one. Since formal training for art was not something available in Maldives back then, I had to give up my dream of ever pursuing art in formal education. From a very young age I took it upon myself to learn to draw and paint and spent hours of my free time reading books and learning to draw from them.

In 2007, a scholarship offer for a degree course in Urban Planning from the Maldives government landed me in Malaysia. However, unfortunate circumstances the sponsor faced during my final year left me with no official document recognizing me as a degree holder. It was during this trying time that I decided to live in Malaysia and pursue a career in art as I had always wanted. I met my husband, a photographer from Kuala Lumpur who became my pillar of strength and support every step of the way.

Today, as a self taught artist, I work in various mediums such as acrylic, watercolors, mixed media and graphite and have participated in several gallery shows and art events around Kuala Lumpur. I have recently started my own campaign for encouraging people to appreciate and support wearable art forms by painting on shoes, bags and clothes. I advocate wearable art as a form of art people can purchase and wear, as opposed to hanging on their walls. My husband and I are also acting patrons of art for young and upcoming artists; where we organize events for artists to showcase their work to the public and get better opportunities and recognition.

Thinking back over the past years, I realize that everything happens for a reason. To me, the best of me is certainly my passion for art which has kept me going since I was a little girl. My dream of becoming an artist when I grew up is finally a reality today. It is by no means the end of my story. I aspire become a better artist every day of my life and inspire others to never give up on their dreams.
Mariyam Shany Ahmed