Habiba El-Sayed is a ceramic artist born and raised in Toronto. Growing up in conservative Muslim community, she craved a creative outlet. It wasn’t until her senior year in a public high school where she was able to explore her artistic potential.
Previously Habiba studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design for Jewellery and Metalsmithing, but she soon found herself dreaming of the material that once intrigued her so much in high school. In 2011 she transferred to Sheridan College where she began to experiment with material and scale.
Habiba has received various awards including the Peter’s Valley Scholarship (2012) and the Silent Night Award (2013) and the prestigious Clifford Scholarship (2014). Her work has been shown in the Gardiner Museum (2013, 2014), Sheridan Gallery, MakeWorks in Toronto and Jonathan Bancroft-Snell Gallery in London. She is currently completing a BFA in Ceramics at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
I make not only to express myself, but also to understand myself. Issues of identity have always weighed heavily on me, being not only a woman of mixed race but also a Muslim woman living in Canada. As a teen, I often struggled to understand how I fit into the various institutions and communities I was born into. Ceramic art has given me the opportunity to explore these thoughts in a tangible way.
Sitting on the white picket fence that separates two very different communities, my balance falters. My work aims to bridge the disconnect I experience in two suburban Canadian neighbourhoods: my Muslim home community in Scarborough and my college town of Oakville. As I move between the two, I experience first-hand how both communities fear and judge each other, not realizing the similarities we share: staunch unwillingness to change and elaborate facades we use to impress our peers. Soaked in synthetic colours, carved with Islamic motifs and suburban symbols, my work grapples with issues of conformity and (mis)understanding.