Egyptian American artist uses digital medium to represent her spiritual journey
Rowaida Omar, a 22-year-old Egyptian American artist draws digital sketches she says are a reflection of what she sees in her life and surroundings.
She said she’s been drawing since she was a young child. As she grew up, she turned to a digital medium for convenience of use and sharing her art online.
“It just kind of grew with me,” she said. “When I got an inspiration it would just be quick and I had my phone on me. Then I got my iPad five months ago and that has helped a lot to expand my work.”
Omar grew up in Ohio, but spent a lot of time in Michigan as a child and now lives in Dearborn. She is a senior and interior design major at Eastern Michigan University.
“I tend to be inspired by things that are more dark in nature like death and rebirth,” Omar said. “Death is just a path to another journey. People see it as the end but it really isn’t.”
She said the death she draws is a spiritual one, not physical.
“I’ve always been drawn to darker things but I didn’t really understand it until I went through a spiritual journey,” Omar said. “My identity was kind of shaken and it lead me down a path to understand my actual soul rather than what I had been conditioned to be.”
Omar was brought up Muslim and let go of her beliefs around when she started college, she said.
A study by the Public Religion Research Institute, published last year, found the number of Americans from the ages of 18 to 29 has gone from 10 percent in 1989 to 39 percent in 2017.
“I do respect the religion but I realized that it wasn’t something I wanted to attach myself to,” she said.
Omar said she doesn’t attach herself to any religion, but takes from all of them to form her own beliefs.
She said there was backlash from her community and family when she let go of the beliefs she grew up with because Arab culture is so tied to Islam.
Men in her community suddenly assumed, because she took off her scarf, that she was promiscuous, Omar said.
“People assumed it was self-esteem issues too,” Omar said. “But for me it was an idealogical change. It had nothing to do with the cultural things people thought came with that decision.”
“There’s backlash because some women bash women who do wear the hijab,” Khawla Rahman, a Muslim student at Wayne State said about cultural backlash for women taking off a hijab. “They can interpret other people’s experiences as their own.”
Omar said her family has accepted her beliefs now, but “it took a while.”
She said she uses nature in her art to represent love.
“I draw a lot of grim reapers, shadows, females with nature-oriented powers,” “all of the things we’ve been conditioned to believe we don’t have, that we’re not powerful or gifted. While we’re human, but you can manifest unconditional love that is more powerful than love is temporary and conditional.”
“In the end it doesn’t matter what you are or who you’re trying to please,” she said. “If you can only love someone because they meet requirements, that’s not real love.”
Omar’s digital drawings can be purchased from her via her instagram profile @rowaidaomar.