Halima Abubakar, mandala artist and muralist is giving a comprehensive interview covering her journey in Mandala art. While having a cup of smoothie(Halima) and sugar cane juice(Phatymah) in the ancient city of Kano state, Nigeria, she had this to say mid way the conversation: “I used to have anxiety and panic attacks. I still do sometimes but mandala helped in refreshing/balancing my brain and leaving me with a relaxating and recuperative effect so I get panic attacks less now. I believe mandala invokes positive energy.” Meeting Halima for the first time, it’s okay for me to say that she is altruistic and art talks make her light up. Read excerpts below…
Hello Leema, readers want to know you better….
I Am Halima Abubakar, CEO @leem.arts. Born and brought up in Abuja, Nigeria. I did all my Primary and tertiary education in Abuja but had to move to Kano state (northern Nigeria) to further my education. I have a B.Sc in Biochemistry and I am currently Undergoing my National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) in Kano state. I am a mandala artist and an illuminist (Turkish tezhip art), and I hope to pursue a career in the art of tezhip (illumination) and Man1dala.
When I first saw your art works, I never thought it had a name. Going through your profile and doing a little research, I got to know more. Please explain Mandala art to readers.
There are many search results on the explanation of mandala but the most relevant is ” A mandala is a complete abstract design that is usually circular in form”. But generally, the word mandala means “Circle” in Sanskrit, for me mandala is “Magic” and it is very therapeutic and relaxing. It represents the connection between our inner worlds and outer reality.
What was your mom and dad’s reaction? Were they difficult at first?
My parents reaction wasn’t what I expected…No, they were not difficult at all. Infact, it was the direct opposite of difficult. When I started, my mom would just tell me to not spend much on the supplies I keep buying with my allowance, that I was going to get ulcer from not eating in school because of art supplies😊. When I am home for holidays, I resign to a corner in our dinning room where I paint and my mom would ask my siblings not to make too much noise because I am working. My dad would come over to my corner, glance at my work and tell me what I am working on is beautiful and he would encourage my younger ones to watch me so they can learn something from me😊. It meant alot to me that they never made comment like “stop wasting your time”.
Mandalas are works of sacred art in Tibetan Buddhism, as a Nigerian, what was the discovery process like/How did you discover Mandala art and at what age?
As a Nigerian, at first I was like people won’t understand this art, only the Buddhist would. In 2014, I was going through IG(it was the same year I opened an account on IG) and I came across a work from Farrah Azam @Bespokehenna . It was henna and doodling but she sometimes makes mandala art. I was 18, it was a boring day and I used to be depressed alot hence, I mostly keep to myself. My phone was my safe haven and I spent more time on my phone. I liked what I saw and I got a paper and pen and I tried to doodle something, afterwards I posted it on Instagram. That was the beginning for me, I couldn’t stop after that. All I wanted was to make beautiful works like Farrah Azam.
I pick up a pencil and a paper before I start any mandala and I feel like I am in another space where it’s just me and what design I am about to start, I completely zone out😊.
What inspired you to become a Mandala artist?
Well, it is a “Who” not “What” for me when it comes to inspiration. After I came across Farrah’s work, I began to search other artists, both henna and mandala and then I came across a talented mandala Artist, ASMAHAN MOSLEH. My first reaction Was WOW! Her works are Unique and Breath-taking. At that point, I realised I wanted absolutely nothing else but to start doing mandala. So, I began a new quest. Stalking mandala artists.
When did you discover this creative side of you and what were the processes you had to go through to come this far? Did you go through any trainings?
I have always been creative from a young age (highschool), I sit in class and I doodle around the edges of my notebook. Then, I started drawing cartoons. My cartoons were neat and great and at a point, I considered becoming a cartoonist. When I got interested in mandala, I began to send Dm’s to mandala artists on IG, asking questions. All I wanted to know was how to start and the tools but I never got a single reply from any of them. It made me angry and determined. I have gone through many processes to come this far, I didn’t have anyone to put me through, didn’t even know I could learn alot about mandala art from Google and YouTube(didn’t cross my mind that time, it would have saved me the stress😊). It took me a while to figure out the tools and I had to start telling myself what to do. Sometimes, I sit down and stare at a mandala work and wondered how the artist made them. I started by drawing them freehand and then little by little, I started figuring things out. I was like, it’s circular so obviously I need a compass.
Most Buddists believe there is a spiritual meaning to Mandala art and believe it has a healing power, do you?
For me, I didn’t attach any spiritual meaning to mandala like the Buddhist do(some believe mandala have a healing power and helps calm the mind like yoga does). They might be right because I often use mandala to calm myself and looking back now, I know mandala healed me from my depressed state. The first person I ever taught mandala to was a lot like me, we had lots in common. We had same names too and she was often depressed when I met her but now, she’s a calm and happy soul. Above all, I just see mandala as a decorative art.
Do you have stories in your art? Is there a message you at trying to pass through Mandala art?
Some I just draw because of an inspiration I got from an artwork I saw. There are messages I try to pass in my works but I have to explain them before some people understand the story behind it but I will be starting a ‘Mandala Project 2019’ and those will be filled with self explanatory stories and messages. For now, some of the mandala I draw are infused with some Calligraphic quotes and messages.
Sometimes, it is hard to tell what an artist’s favourite colour is. Do you have a favourite?
The colours I mostly love to use to paint my works with are blue, black and gold (I can’t do without Gold in my artworks) maybe thats because while learning, I came across many blue mandala so I am stuck with blue I don’t know😊 but normally my favorite colours are sky blue and turquoise.
What was it like the first time you had a monetary exchange of your art work? Were you emotional parting away with it?
The first time I got paid for my work(2015), I was ecstatic. I wasn’t emotional parting with that particular piece, I was just filled with joy that someone loves my work enough to buy even though I was just learning then and my linings were not perfect. But now, I get emotional and think about the piece long after it’s been delivered to the buyer. I Sometimes wish I can keep them and not let my babies go😊 but I always keep pictures and would start keeping prints because I sell the originals.
How do you market your artwork?
For now, I market Using Instagram and social media sponsored ads but I want to do more and take more steps in marketing outside social media and I am working on something.
What’s your take on the art and craft industry in Nigeria? Are people appreciative of art? Is there restriction on an artistic form of communication? What are the challenges and changes you would love to see in this industry?
The art and craft industry in Nigeria is diverse and very few people are appreciative of art in Nigeria. I know from a firsthand experience and reactions/questions I get from people when they see my art. There is absolutely no restrictions on an artistic form of communication, people express their art in a way that works for them. I believe everyone’s art is special in their own ways and they should communicate in any form they deem fit. There are soo many challenges and changes I would love to see in the art industry but the first I want to work on is to create awareness and try and change people’s perspective when it comes to art, a way to make them see art for what it is, “Magical” and “Breathtaking” be it abstract art, graffiti, mosaic, calligraphy, animation and all sort of arts out there.
Do you have to go through emotions to draw your art? Maybe a sad state of mind/Happy state of mind?
Yes, most times I go through emotions to draw my art. Sometimes, it just generates from inspiration of some sort. Back then, I pick up a paper and a compass set with no idea what I want to draw when I am sad or in a depressing state, I just start and ideas just keep pouring in but now, it is more of when I am in a happy state of mind.
Where do you see Mandala art in the nearest future?
I do see mandala art in the nearest future. Alot of people have seen my work and they want to learn. I just finished my first ever online mandala class, it was a one month weekends only class. The result is very impressive and I can’t help but feel proud of myself (laughs). I had a total of 9 students, before this I taught someone November, last year and she’s doing so good now in mandala and that makes me happy. I see a future with awesome and amazing mandala art and artists in it.
Are there Mandala artists in Nigeria? Please mention them.
To be honest, I don’t know many mandala artists in Nigeria that’s doing something similar to what I do. I have searched on social media and I am still searching. They just might not be on social media but the closest I have come to finding a Nigerian mandala artist is a Lady named Data Oruwari and a guy, Mr Chauw on instagram.
Which artist(s) inspires you?
Farrah Azam (Mandala), Asmahan Mosleh (mandala), Zahra Goulamhoussen (Mandala), Zai Hafiz (Mandala), Kultume Gana (Mosaic, realistic, abstract), Maryam Maigida (Visual art), Ayogu Kingsley (Hyper realism), and great artists/painters like Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Michelangelo.
Where would you love to see your art work?/ Who would you love to see purchase your art work?
I would love to see my artworks in Galleries like Thoughtpyramid, Red Door Gallery, Omenka Gallary and more. I would love only people who understand what art is and people who love art to purchase my work. I don’t want people to buy it because they “just” like it and would want to have my work. The reaction I got from Haj.Kultume Gana(A great artist from northern Nigeria) when she saw my Artwork was EVERYTHING. It is a reaction I would love to see on other buyers faces. She saw one of my works and she wanted it immediately and she purchased with no doubt in mind or second guessing. I saw her face lit up and I was so happy. She is one of the few people in Nigeria that would understand what Tezhip and Mandala art is.
Even though most people say art is individuality. Can Mandala art be taught to a novice?
Yes, mandala art can be taught to a Novice. It just needs a lot of practicing and patience from the student/learner. Mandala art is time consuming and only those that have the patience and determination can truly learn.
What’s your advise for aspiring Mandala artists and what 3 tools would you recommend they start with?
The Advise I have for aspiring mandala artists are.
*Don’t stop practicing.
*Don’t be afraid to come up with a design of your own, it will turn out beautiful.
The most Important tools aside paper are:
*A compass set.
* A pencil.
What would you like to be remembered for?
*smiles* I want to be remembered as an inspiration, a motivator to aspiring Nigerian mandala artist. The best Mandala artist in Nigeria and also the First illuminator (tezhip artist) in Nigeria.
You can buy her art/contact her: