Hanan Abdu wants you to know that if you love her work, she created it for you.“ The more people said that they felt seen and acknowledged, the more it pushed me to want to create more because it made me feel good knowing that people felt like they were centered in something.”
I’ve followed her for years but I only just learned her full name - Hanan Abdu. On instagram, she goes by Hanan’s Corner, where she creates art that reflects the beauty and strength of Black Muslim women.
“Mostly it started off as like East African centered artwork. Then I started just like literally posting and posting and I guess people liked it a lot. “ People did like it alot - she now has 110K followers on instagram and is quickly growing everyday.
The thing I love the most about Hanan’s work is her clear love for Black Muslim women. Every piece I see of hers just radiates with adoration for women who are almost never represented anywhere else.
“A lot of the stuff that I focused on was mostly East African centered because I didn't see artwork that looked like us and I never saw Eritrean art Ethiopian art Sudanese, like any East African art really.”
Hanan is of Eritrean descent , “So I was like, it would be so lovely if we just had like artwork for us because I see a lot of like Palestinian are like a lot of like Arab centered art but I don't see much East African so I was like, Hey, let me just like hop on it and like, just like, explore it.”
“There's a lot of intentionality behind everything that I create. And I'm always well aware of what I'm producing, how I'm producing it, who I'm presenting it to.” She tells me, “I've had people reach out to me, telling me that they started wearing hijab because of my artwork. And I was like, you would never think that it would have that impact. But literally they’ll be like, ‘because of your work, and I feel so represented, I'm motivated, and I started wearing hijab’.”
Another thing that drew me into Hanan’s work was her depiction of Muslim women and the hijab as a whole - not as a monolithic set of rules we all follow perfectly and uniformly, but as a diverse, unique experience for each woman, a realistic impression of what the hijab is like not just for every unique woman but for every unique culture and islamic background.
"At the end of the day, hijab is a journey. Of course, there's a way that you wear it, we all know that there's a proper way to wear it. However, everyone's journey is different. And that's the purpose of drawing it is to represent what Muslim women look like right now and their struggles. It's not realistic for me to draw hijabi women if that's not how they wear it, and right now, it's there's women who are in jilbab, there's women who wear it without an edge showing, there's women with edges, there's women who wear a turban, but at the end of the day, they're all muslim women, and they're all wearing hijab, they just wear it differently, but they're all on a journey to wear it properly. So that's kind of like the point.”
I asked Hanan what kind of reactions she got to her art when she first launched her platform, Hanan’s Corner. And while she says the majority of the responses she gets are overwhelmingly positive, it was difficult for some to feel excluded from her work.
“Sometimes when you create space for black women and brown women, it can cause a lot of tension for other groups, because it's like, oh my gosh, they're feeling they're being seen, it can feel uncomfortable. Yeah. But that happening means I'm doing something right.”
Hanan tells me that she’s motivated by the lack of diversity in the creative space, seeing it as an opportunity to make space for future artists.
“It just pushes me more because there's not enough of us at all. And even me being in the space as a black Muslim artist is incredibly lonely, because I don't see many of us in space at all. There's maybe like, maybe one, one or two artists but even then it's like, very rare. The platform I’ve been given is such a blessing. But it's also like a test at the same time. So I feel like I have such a big responsibility to make sure that the space that I've already intentionally created continues, you know, and that people continue feeling safe and feel supported and feel seen. And that's what I am aiming to do.”
I asked Hanan if she had a message for any other young Black creatives, especially young Black Muslim women, who might be following her with hopes of following her through the door her art has opened.
“So I would just say like, I just hope to see more of us in this space. We don't know how long I'm going to be doing this for so I just hope there's like another person that comes and takes over and it just kind of continues and we can take over media in a way that makes sense and makes us feel represented and seen in an accurate way. Which I think is super important. And this industry can be quite lonely sometimes, especially as almost like a woman, black woman. Always push yourself to gravitate towards if creativity is something that you want to do, like, just don't give up on it. “
“But at the end of the day, if you do something fi sabeel illah, your intentions are so clean and you know that it's something that you want, you're passionate about it, the money will come and you'll enjoy it, so I just hope to see more of us in the creative field period. Yeah, inshallah. Inshallah, inshallah.”