Raahem is currently a Year 3 Storytelling & Illustration for Sequential Arts student
Raahem Alvi was born and raised in the city of Karachi, Pakistan.
Raahem had this to say about his experiences, why he chose to study Illustration & Storytelling for Sequential Arts and why art is important:
“I am a Pakistani-Canadian artist. I come from a place where art and colours have been submerged into every facet of the culture but in a rather invisible, unseen way for the societal conscience. The Islamic world has a long history of interaction with art, especially during the era of the Mughal Empires- yet it is lost on us. Thus, art is often perceived with a sense of condescension.
Art has always been a part of who I am. It was my grandfather, a man with progressive and unique sensibilities, who pushed me all my life to pursue what he saw was my “purpose”. Through art I can explore my heritage, my identity, my history and most importantly myself.
Thematically my work concerns the societal issues in Pakistan which I hold a personal connection with. The major theme through all of my work as a sequential story artist is abuse against young girls. I had originally wished to pursue child psychology so I could work with girls who lived in the slums of Pakistan. But art, I determined, has a greater and more universal reach. Where psychiatry can often constrict us to an individual, the reach of art is greater. After all, we often define societies and their conditions by the art that they were producing- and the themes they carried. Generations are studied through the interpretations of life within artwork- from the romanticism of Rococo to the deep existentialism of Dadaism.
Through art I wish to bring light towards femicide. Girls who live in the slums of Pakistan face conflict from birth. They are victimised by brothers, fathers, uncles. The threat of trafficking is an ever looming reality. Most find themselves cleaning homes of the middle class- where they are abused behind closed doors with no one to go to. While there is societal outrage after the revelation of a high profile case, the abuse which exists for these girls day-to-day is left unseen. The same threats exist for little girls from minority communities who find themselves in chains, kidnapped and forcibly married to a man of influence. Abuse is not exceptional. It is the status quo.
My concerns towards the rights of children, especially those of young girls does not end at the borders of Pakistan. My personal projects concern themselves with rape in wartime, especially against the wider Muslim community. I find the discussion on wartime rape against Muslim girls within past and present acts of genocides to be reprehensibly lacking. The discussion becomes further mum when the violators in question have some form of Western backing. As a writer I focus on extensive research on these topics- and as an artist I wish to cover these stories within published graphic novels. I believe illustration can provide a true and accurate portrayal to these stories in manners mere words could not.
I wish to continue my work as an activist after college. I have been active through the past years in charity and protest work. I hope for my work to have a reach, to have a voice. Muslim culture and Muslim practices are perceived as wholly exotic even now. Representation for us wholly absent outside of negative portrayals. Our experiences and our issues are rarely paid attention to. I hope that I, as a writer and an artist, can fill that void. In 5 years, I want my first graphic novel Ishq-e-Ilahi to have been published. Ishq-e-Illahi literally translates to, “love of God” but I translate it as “Devotion” for the English title. The story is based on the experiences of real girls who grew up in Pakistani slums and Afghan refugee girls who are trafficked into brothels.”
In 5 years Raahem hopes that the story goes beyond roughs and letters on pages. He wishes it to become a part of the subconscious in Pakistani society at some level. Raahem hopes Devotion attains some form of success which would allow him to take his first step towards his dream of opening a school and a home for homeless girls in Pakistan.