The Overture sat down with University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) alumni Adnan Razvi to discuss why Muslims are not scary, but lack of understanding is.

What mediums do you enjoy working with?

I like painting on canvas using acrylics, spray paint  and ink. I also like using cardboard. It’s really organic, and we regard it as trash, but you can also create something out of it. It’s just looking at something differently. No one really ever sees a cardboard box and says ‘I want to paint it’.

How long have you been creating pieces?

Since I was 6. I have always been drawn to it. I have been painting since 2003 but actual painting on canvas, stuff I enjoy, I have been doing it since 2008.

How long does it take you to create a piece?

It depends on the mood I’m in. Anywhere from five hours to three months. It varies. some pieces have stronger commentary on certain issues, so I try to get it right. It is me releasing stress and enjoying myself but it is also me taking a stance on certain things. But I still try to keep my audience as wide as possible.

How do you feel about being Muslim, since a lot of your pieces focus on that issue?

Growing up in America, everyone goes through their own identity crisis, no matter what nationality they are. But, it doesn’t help if the media is subjugating you.
As a Muslim, I have taken on the responsibility of representing a group that is so diverse.

But now when you watch American news, all you see when you hear Muslim is a dude in a cloak with a big ass beard and burning shit.

They brainwash you to think that, but we have been here in America since the 1800s.
I try to comment on that a lot because there is such a negative viewpoint towards it. Also, a lot of Muslims today are scared to talk about this shit. They need to be proud of it, because it’s not some alien thing. If you look at history, each group throughout history has gone into some sort of initiation into American culture.
I’m actually mixed, African and Pakistani. So growing up it was always certain issues I’m supposed to identify with on both sides.
Even though I use some elements of graffiti, I’m not a graffiti artist. I like to think of myself as a contemporary pop-artist, but I don’t like to put labels on myself and be so serious about it.
I do playful themes, like the smiley face, but at the same time there is a message. I like to reference religion, social issues, humanitarian issues especially, such as my piece on the rape in the Congo.

I have a lot of issues I do research on and that is one of them. Rape goes unnoticed in certain countries. It’s horrendous. But on the front page of CNN you see Lindsey Lohan. When did we stop becoming humans and become so materialistic? We need to branch out and comment on these things. My hope was that someone would see that piece and go do research on it. Usually people tend to skip over such issues. Too much technology makes people not care about anything but themselves, and we are all guilty of it, even me. So I try to fight that vanity.
I love talking about women’s rights and I was also addressing that. I’m all for being completely equal. We are really chained down to a pre 1960s mentality. It’s a constant pressure on women in society. Whether it be cultural limitations or religious limitations, it’s imposed rules and standards on women that men don’t have to deal with. It seems kind of harsh. We think everyone is equal but we still need to do a lot.


I understand you have been selling some pieces lately, did you create them to sell?

I don’t market it to sell it, but I have sold some stuff recently. I do it to just have the exposure and spark discussion. When I sell something the people usually come to me and say they want it.
I don’t want to be an artist as my career necessarily. This is a hobby and a lifestyle. A career is not my life, this is my life. This is what I dedicate my time to. I work 9-5, and I do all types of things. I do production and freelance work for a company right now and some production artwork for various clients.

Where are you thinking of going for graduate school?

I was accepted to SMU, and I’m going into their conflict resolution program.

I find it very interesting. Growing up I was always mediating between family and groups. Culturally, our age group needs better communication skills to be able to pass on information to other generations.  In a sense it will help my art because it involves transmitting and interpreting people’s ideas, which is similar to art. It’s translating in a manner people can understand.

What would you say the message of your work is?

It’s just about having pride for your culture, love for who you are as well as others, and respect people. I’m very tolerant and I try to get that across to others through my art.
I refer specifically to being Muslim in my works but it’s also about the broader spectrum of understanding.



Photographs courtesy of Razvi.