A mother embarked on an artistic journey to introduce her daughter to God.
WHEN artist Farasha Osman’s daughter Bali Meranti Adrian was about four years old, she felt it was time to start talking to her about God and their faith.
Farasha, who is fondly called Pacha, believes it’s essential to Bali’s upbringing.
“I think it is very important for me to provide my child with a strong foundation and an understanding of Allah the Almighty before anything else.
“After all, how can I expect my child to respect and worship Allah if she does not have the knowledge and awareness of the Almighty. It’s a knowledge which is vital in understanding and loving the Creator, an awareness that makes us want to devote our lives to Allah,” says Pacha, 44.
As she is an avid reader who has read to Bali from an early age, it was only natural for Pacha to turn to children’s books to introduce her daughter to her religion. But the mother and daughter whose favourite author and illustrator are David Walliams and Quentin Blake couldn’t find books that were well-written and well-illustrated even though they searched for months.
“After failing to find a book we both liked, I began thinking about coming up with one. I wanted a book I could read to Bali at bedtime, a book that delivers Allah’s 99 attributes in a way that Bali could relate to. I wanted something that was not too heavy yet well-illustrated because Bali loves picture books,” recounts Pacha. It was an unexpected outcome to their search for children’s books on faith, but they became more and more excited by the project.
“We wanted to come up with a book which delivers Allah’s 99 attributes in a contemporary way, not in Arabic or Khat as it’s been traditionally done. We decided to write our book in English and use contemporary paintings as illustrations.
“We also wanted to co-author a book that speaks to everybody, not just Muslims,” says Pacha.
It was also only natural that they chose to explore and express their faith with paintings as Pacha is an artist. She had taken a break from painting and exhibiting to focus on raising Bali, and embarking on the book project was the best reason to return to her passion for the arts. Bali, who is now seven, has also inherited her mother’s artistic flair and has been painting since she was old enough to pick up a paint brush.
“So, the timing was perfect,” Pacha recalls, adding that a few of her artist friends also encouraged her to resume painting and embark on the project.
It took Pacha and Bali two years to research, write and paint together, and they released their self-published book this year.
Aptly and quirkily titled OMG (short for Oh My God), the book explains the meaning and virtues of the 99 names of Allah. OMG also contains 30 poems and is beautifully illustrated with 30 paintings, all produced by the mother and daughter.
Pacha and Bali explored the 99 names of Allah together to understand His attributes, painted together and made sure that their ideas and creations complemented one another.
“I read the translations of the stories from the Quran and books on the Names of Allah to Bali when she was three or four years old. So she already understood the concepts when we started working on the book when she was five to six years old.”
Pacha talked to Bali, who would share her interpretations about Allah’s names. Her mother would then use Bali’s words, sometimes tweaking them for clarity.
“I think it is important that my daughter and I remind each other about the virtues of Allah. OMG helped us with that. We chose the title OMG because we wanted something catchy, and attractive to the young.”
Pacha says her ideas and inspirations came in spurts.
“I usually kept several canvases ready on the floor around the living room so we could both paint whenever we were inspired or felt like it,” says Pacha, adding that this also enabled Bali to paint whenever she wanted to. Bali’s most significant expressions were through the paintings.
Pacha and Bali’s journey in getting to know Allah and understanding His attributes is manifested in their highly descriptive, bright, colourful and childlike paintings.
Pacha describes her paintings as “memoirs, travels and spiritual and emotional bonding between mother and daughter.”
“We revisited places we are familiar with to get inspiration for our paintings. We also recalled our favourite places like my grandparents’ home in Lenggeng, Negri Sembilan, as well as our favourite Indonesian island of Bali.”
The mother and daughter also looked for inspiration in their daily activities as well as in the people they met.
Quite a number of the paintings bear Balinese influences as they feel a strong affinity with Bali, where they had spent some time. In fact, they were there recently to participate in the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival.
Each painting is unique and tells an engaging story.
In a brightly coloured and cheerful one entitled Rice Paddy Field In Ubud Tegallang, Pacha and Bali painted the balcony of a homestay they stayed at. They painted the balcony strewn with toys they had bought from Ubud Market.
Pacha recounts how Bali started this piece with a gigantic toy cat followed by a wooden truck, a heart-shaped balloon and a bird’s head. Pacha did the rest of the fillers.
Next to the painting are explanations on four Attributes of God which are The Reckoner, The Originator of Creation, The Repeater of Creation, The Giver of Life and The Giver of Death. These attributes are also written in bold by Bali in the painting.
In Masak Lemak Tempoyak Cili Api, Pacha painted a scene from her grandparents’ home. She painted his comb, small vintage mirror, an old calendar and ingredients and cooking utensils used to cook Masak Lemak Tempoyak Cili Api. Bali doodled OGGY and the Cockroaches (from a French animated comedy series produced by Xilam and Gaumont Film Company) on the shelves in the room. The Attributes of Allah in this painting are The Straightener, The Enlarger, The Abaser, The Elevator and The Honorer.
Pacha admits that working with her young child was frustrating at times as Bali had different ideas and priorities. However, she would not have had it any other way.
“I painted when I was single, married and when I was pregnant with Bali. I painted while I was breastfeeding Bali and had my first solo exhibition then.
“Then, I painted with my daughter. It was through this togetherness that I felt, without any doubt, that that was the best creativity the One Creator had graciously given to me and that person is always smiling beside me,” says Pacha with Bali right beside her, grinning away.
For more details, and to purchase their book or/and paintings, visit their Facebook page OMG by Pacha and Bali.