Parsons

Profiles

  • Fine Arts (BFA)

    Azzah Sultan

    At a time when American identity is being critically examined, artist and Parsons BFA Fine Arts alumna Azzah Sultan employs her creativity to shatter oppressive stereotypes of Muslim women and telegraph a message that “being a Muslim does not make one any less an American.”

    When she was 16 years old, Azzah Sultan moved to New York from Malaysia to pursue her BFA at Parsons School of Design. Using a variety of media—painting, sculpture, video, found art—Sultan has dedicated her creative practice to exploring the often-traumatic experiences of Muslim women in the West. “For me, and other people of color, art is an important outlet,” says Sultan. “It’s a way for us to convey our struggles and experiences in a visual form.”

    While completing her fine arts degree, Sultan developed a provocative portfolio that challenges the negative stereotypes attached to Islam. Her installation Radical Free Zone features video collages composed of more than 200 reports drawn from major news sources like FOX and CNN that depict Islam in derogatory—often hostile—terms. Sultan describes this project as a “brainwashing video.” After absorbing the defamatory content, explains Sultan, “you’re in a space where you can’t ignore the media, you can’t ignore the Islamophobia.”

    As if to bridge her past with her present, Sultan’s art explores the loaded intersection of Muslim and American identity in search of a creative space where the two can coexist. Her piece Home Sweet Home, a hand-stitched American flag made from headscarves crowdsourced from Muslim women across the United States, is aimed at demonstrating that “religion doesn’t have to conflict with your nationality.” Correcting widely held misconceptions about Muslim women is an objective interwoven through Sultan’s art, one that has won her recognition in publications including the Huffington Post.

    After graduating from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program in 2016, Sultan worked as an artist assistant at Artists of Color Bloc—an NYC-based organization seeking to diversify local cultural institutions and empower artists—and a programming assistant at Triangle Arts Associated, a local nonprofit fostering dialogue through public programming. She also spent nearly a year as a designer for the Islamic Art Museum in Malaysia before returning to the United States to pursue advanced studies in fine arts. In the future, she plans to embark on a career as a curator. “Muslim people are generally underrepresented in the art world,” she says. “I want to create a space just for us.”

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