Fatima is a curator, author, and co-founded Zanbeel Art in 2007. She curates South Asian American Art exhibitions and programming in Los Angeles. Sultan is also the co-founder of Zanbeel’s South Asian Art and Literacy for Youth (SAALY) Program.
"My paternal grandmother, Ahmadunissa, was a struggling artist, yet an empowered woman. Born in the late 1800s, she was the third wife of a wealthy Nawab*. After the sudden loss of her husband from a heart attack, she and her four sons were stripped of all wealth.
Ahmadunissa remained strong and determined to educate her sons. She painted religious imagery of the Kaaba* and the Prophet Mohammad’s Roza* from different perspectives, even though she had never been there. She sold her artworks to several rich families. Ahmadunissa was also fond of making glittery sequined evening handbags in different shapes and sold them to the Nawab ladies she knew, while she was married.
All her hard work paid off in educating her four sons. Ahmadunissa's eldest son, Ahmed Abdul Jabbar, stood first in the Civil Service exam and was appointed the youngest Mayor in the district of South India. One of her gifted twin boys became a caricaturist for the largest newspaper “Times of India” and the other twin became a furniture designer and hand-crafter of fine furniture. Ahmadunissa's youngest son, my father, Ahmed Abdullah, was a prolific writer, journalist and a political analyst. His books were used as a curriculum in Pakistan's Universities and could be found at every Pakistani Embassy and Consulate.
I founded Zanbeel in memory of my beloved grandmother, she has been my inspiration from early childhood, when I helped her make collages of people bowing in front of the Kaaba."
*Nawab: viceroy; a Muslim official in South Asia acting as a provincial deputy ruler under the Mughal empire; a local governor.
*Kaaba: a building at the center of Islam's most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Muslims face in its direction when praying.
*Roza: shrine or tomb.