The Art of Mosaic with Anisa Sharif


Anisa Sharif:  I fell in love with mosaicing about 10 years ago. One of the many things that I do in the community apart from sport, working at schools, Eid activities, supporting mosques, has been to run some workshops that enable people from different cultures and faiths to come together and be united through the beauty of mosaic.

I'm a self-taught artist. I haven't learned from anyone professionally. And in fact, my very first mosaic was just after the tsunami and it was a memorial to everybody who had passed away. 

Hi, my name is Anisa Sharif. I'm an Australian Muslim. I've worked with the Australian Federal Police for three years. We work with cultural and linguistically diverse communities. I have a terrific passion for Islamic art and it has been a huge influence in my life. 

It's actually believed that the very first person who discovered coloured glass was a Muslim brother called Ibn Firnas. So it was actually Muslims who built the very first stained glass factory for the Christians. 

And the Christians took the stained glass and began to make beautiful, inspiring stained glass windows. But Muslims focused more on the use of tile. And their tiles became more and more decorative. Before someone can pray they must do wudu, which means that they must cleanse themselves and be clean before they can enter the mosque. So in many of the oldest mosques in the world there will be fountains outside and the fountains will have beautiful decorative tiles and clean running water where people can wash themselves before they enter. 

As a result of this most really large mosques in the world now have beautiful fountains and amazing ponds filled with crystal clear water. So there is a great affiliation between water and Islamic tiles. I like to use old Islamic tiles that are broken and that have been discarded and make water ponds. For me there is a tremendous beauty in seeing a pond with Islamic tile in it, and the water. And the connection of being clean before you pray to God and just the sense of purity that comes with the beauty that is water. 

The use of the tree of life, not only in the Islamic faith but in all religions, has been continuous since the dawn of mankind. It seems to be an ongoing belief that the tree of life very much represents not only the journey of mankind but many nations, one humanity, the differences of so many colours in humanity. It also talks about the grounding of faith, reaching up into the heavens. 

One of the main reasons that I really like to inspire young people to become more involved with Islamic art is if you walk into any place of worship anywhere in the globe and it's stunning, the first thing that you will say is, oh my God. And those three words straightaway inspire you to think of the Creator. 

If someone is interested in learning how to mosaic, you can actually buy small cut glass mosaic tiles. If you've decided that you wanted to make some shapes with these, you can buy these barrel cutters and you can just snip them in half. The boxes come in sizes and shapes like this but you can also get smaller versions of the tiles. 

Getting more advanced, you can use a glass cutter. They have a small roller head which is a bit like a pizza cutter. You know how a pizza cutter has a big roller. So they're not sharp to work with and they don't actually cut the glass. They actually score the glass, which means they put a line in the glass, a scratch, which compromises the surface integrity of the glass. So once the score line is there you can then snap the glass. 

I've also found that working with crockery is great. If you have a piece of crockery that has tremendous sentimental value, might have been your grandmother's or your mother, and all you've got left is one piece and you can't use it anymore-- they are fantastic to work with and a lot of fun. And you can also just cut those with that. You can use a hammer but I still recommend that you use the cutters. They're so much safer. 

A lot of people are actually now gluing the tea cups to the saucers and attaching a stand and sitting them in their garden. And there's a lot of people now really becoming very sentimental and using those types of things in their gardens. It's a lot of fun for the kids as well. So for me, I really want young people to think about decorating places of worship. And also continuing on with the legacy that's been left with all of the ancient artisans who in many cases were uneducated and worked tirelessly, very long days, decorating places of worship so that hundreds of years later we still walk into those places now and say, oh my God. 

About this Video

Mosaic artist Anisa Sharif talks about her art and its place in Islamic culture.
Length: 5:14