Cambridgeshire

British Muslim artists showcased in new Peterborough gallery

Aisha Zia outside her new gallery 62 Gladstone Street Image copyright Maryam Wahid
Image caption Aisha Zia says she wants the gallery to be a place where people come together and find "hope"

A playwright behind a new gallery showcasing British Muslim artists says she wants to challenge Islamophobia as the "biggest issue of our time".

Aisha Zia is opening 62 Gladstone Street in her father's old video shop in the heart of the Asian community in Peterborough.

It will hold exhibitions but also aims to be a "social platform" with events.

"Islamophobia is everyone's issue," said Ms Zia. "It is all of our responsibility."

Image copyright Maryam Wahid
Image caption Maryam Wahid's self-portraits show her dressed in the clothes of her mother, who migrated to the UK in 1982

The 38-year old began writing about 10 years ago and in 2014 gave up a "well-paid" job as a photo editor to follow her dream.

The same year, she won an Edinburgh Fringe award for her play No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, based on real interviews with Muslim women boxers.

She said the new arts space felt like a "piece of activism".

"I want to change the narrative that is presented to us. There is lots of negative portrayal about communities.

"It's about offering an alternative so people... feel less isolated."

Image copyright Maryam Wahid
Image caption Maryam Wahid's self-portraits explore the issues of women and identity

Maryam Wahid, 23, from Birmingham, will exhibit her self-portraits at the gallery later this year.

"As I was growing up, [museums] would never really reflect my life as a British Asian girl. I didn't really feel I was represented."

She said the gallery was a great initiative and she wanted to hear more stories "from all backgrounds".

"I don't see my religion," said Ms Wahid. "Faith really inspires me and motivates me to keep doing this."

Image copyright Zain Awan/Saarah Ali
Image caption The first exhibition by Zain Awan focuses on the lives of the first wave of Muslim migrants to come to Peterborough

The gallery, which was given a £15,000 grant from Arts Council England, will open with an exhibition about the first Muslim migrants to Peterborough and will also celebrate local community figures.

"I think a lot of people carry fear and terror and shame," Ms Zia said.

"Peterborough, and Gladstone Street in particular, is a really interesting melting pot of communities... we want to celebrate that."

The writer will also collect local people's stories through the gallery to form the basis of a new play.

"I've never seen myself as a minority or a British Asian artist," she said.

"I'm just being positive about the community.

"My narrative is about people coming together and finding hope."

Image copyright Aisha Zia
Image caption Playwright Aisha Zia (left, as a toddler) was inspired to open the gallery in what used to be her father's video shop

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