We recently had the pleasure of speaking with the kindhearted and open-minded Zaina, an artist from Bangladesh who has won awards for her work. She discussed her lifelong passion for helping animals, how art impacts social change, how her parents encouraged her to be creative although she received backlash from peers and how she spreads positive messages through her pieces.
It’s a pleasure to speak with you, Zaina! As a young artist from Bangladesh whose pieces have been awarded, what can you tell us about the type of art you create and which mediums you use?
Hello everyone! I'm Zaina Alam Piya from Dhaka, Bangladesh. It's a pleasure for me to talk to you. Thank you so much to A Gen Z’s Take for giving me this chance. I love creating artworks. Drawing, painting, sketching and creating digital art has become a part of my daily routine now. I like to create traditional portraits, landscapes and sometimes digital art. I love using colored pencils and watercolors. I also enjoy acrylic painting sometimes.
How did art become such a big part of your life?
I have always enjoyed making art and doing anything creative since I was a kid. My parents always inspired me to create art, to sing, to play the piano. After teaching myself how to draw portraits this whole journey really boosted my confidence, which is why I'm grateful to my father. I enjoyed creating portraits and I continued to create more art and also try different mediums and art styles. My mother also always showed support to me, no matter what. She often gives me ideas as well when I'm going through an art block, and I'm so thankful to her. Their support and inspiration made art such a big part of my life.
I'm trying to grow as an artist to achieve my dreams. I have a few achievements in the art section. I have achieved more than forty international awards, certificates and achievements for art so far. Some of them are UNICEF Superstar Award, UNESCO Center For Peace, International Peace Dove Award, UNHCR certificate and appreciation, UNCCD International art contest, China - Bangladesh Friendship Art Competition (First Place Amateur Category), The 51'st International Children's Art Exhibition Japan, ADAV Society Art contest, Picasso Award (4x), Winner of Cult Pens art contest, etc. I've created a portrait of Bangabandhu Sheik Mujibur Rahman– the Father of the nation of Bangladesh. The artwork is at a gallery in Germany. I've also worked in the documentary film 'Biography of Nazrul' (the national poet of Bangladesh) as an illustrator. I've done illustrations and portraits for a book as well. I've had the opportunity to learn a lot of things through drawing and painting. Although I haven’t seen the world much, some of my artworks did. Some of them have been exhibited in the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, U.S.A. I'm trying to improve my skills. I'm also sharing snippets and progress of my works on social media so in the future I can look back and see how far I've come.
With your commissioned work, some of the proceeds go to charities and feeding stray dogs and cats. Why is giving back important to you?
I try to contribute some of my earned money from doing commissions to homeless animals. I want to continue doing this. My father and mother also really inspired me to help the animals. Since I was a kid, we used to go out and feed the street dogs and cats around our neighborhood, and we still do - it really makes us happy. Me and my mother also feed the street dogs around our school. I used to save up my school lunch before feeding them. It might not be a lot, but one day I would like to contribute much much more to help them. I also made cards for an organization for helping animals where all the profit earned from selling them was used to help shelter dogs and cats. I also try to contribute some of my earnings to kids in need.
I won a card competition for an organization called Kitrinos Healthcare and all the money earned from selling the card was used to help the refugees have a safe and joyful Eid. I believe we can make the world a better place by helping each other. I have received so much love from a lot of people around the world and I want to spread the love with others as well. We can always hope for a better future, and giving back ensures a better future.
Through your art, you “teach people the importance of creativity in their [lives]” and tell stories. What are your favorite pieces you’ve done that have made an impact?
I have wanted to draw and paint inspirational artworks since I was a kid. I used to see many talented artists sharing their amazing and detailed artwork with so many wonderful and positive messages. Seeing those artworks always made me happy. I wanted to do something similar to that. I don't know how much of that I did, but I do have some favorite pieces. My favorite piece is an artwork where the main topic was: 'Fighting Together against Covid-19'. In this artwork I tried to depict how the entire world was suffering during the pandemic situation. The whole world was suffering and we all came together to fight against the deadly virus. It wasn’t just a nation's problem, it was the world’s problem. This artwork won a few awards and competitions such as UNICEF Superstar Award and it was featured on the UNHCR social media as well as featured in the Teen Creative cover magazine. I would say this was my best creation.
I also like the painting of me and my dog looking out the window. It's a very personal piece and has a deep connection with me. It just makes me happy and feel good. It also reminds me of hope, love and friendship [all] in one piece. This one won a few contests- from Canada's ADAV Society, Germany - Kunst für Bildung (finalist), UK - ShieldUs.
How does art impact social change?
Art is such a powerful tool. I don't think It's possible for me to express in words how much power it holds. It has the power to connect people, inspire people and fight for people. It's fascinating how an image can touch so many hearts and connect so many minds. Art and artists play a major role in our society.
Art has been used as a tool to motivate people and fight for people's rights. That says a lot about art. Not only fine arts, but the same can be said about poetry, writing and music. These have been used for years by creative people to bring light to many unnoticed or unfair subjects.
Which artists do you look up to and admire?
I really like Zainul Abedin's paintings. Zainul Abedin was a Bangladeshi painter born in Kishoreganj. His paintings are very meaningful and powerful. One of my favorite artists is Bob Ross. His artworks are so magnificent and I admire his work so much. They are so peaceful to look at and inspire me a lot. I also admire Michelangelo and Vincent Van Gogh's artworks. I also enjoy WLOP 's digital artworks– they are insanely good and inspire me.
Have you faced any backlash about your art?
When I was young, I used to draw cartoons such as princesses and dolls. My parents always encouraged me to be creative. They inspired me to experiment with my art. After doing my first portrait, I remember some people were laughing and taking it as a joke. These people were close to me and I remember being really excited to show them my drawing. But I didn’t really expect them to act that way. After that I didn’t create any portraits for quite a long time. In 2019 my father inspired me to give portraits another try. I did my second portrait that year and I am glad I did. In these scenarios the backlash wasn’t really towards my art.. but me I guess.
What are your plans for the future?
I would be really happy if I could get a scholarship and study in a renowned art university and work in the art field in the future. I have always wanted to become a professional artist. I'm far away from being that, but it would be really cool if I can achieve that dream. I also want to continue making art for myself and participate in a lot more events. I want to help people with my art. I want to express and show how important mental health is in my artworks. That is something I really want to do. Last but not least, I want to make my parents proud, I really do.
I’d love to thank you for sharing! Was there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
I just want to say thank you so much for this beautiful opportunity! I learned a lot about myself while answering these questions. I had so much fun and I thank all the members of A Gen Z’s Take. I'm grateful to the Almighty for everything he has given to me. I believe honest and sincere labor never goes in vain. Thanks to my father and mother for always supporting me. I am grateful to them and all the people who have supported me in my journey.
[My socials: IG -@al4m__ , Tiktok - @Piya.arts Facebook page - Zaina's]