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Artist Spotlight: Shirin Begmyradova

Shirin Begmyradova is an artist based in Turkmenistan whose work focuses on women, language and cultural preservation

This week we are spotlighting the work of Shirin Begmyradova, a digital illustrator based in Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

How has your lived experience shaped your practice?

There are a lot of things that come to my mind when I think about what shaped my practice, but I would point out two. I was born in Turkmenistan (it is a country in Central Asia). Our country is one of the few where people still dress in traditional clothing. Although it changes and adapts to modern fashion, our women would wear colourful dresses, and mix and match different patterns together. That probably influenced my perception of colour. I love using bright, vibrant colours and patterns in my illustrations.

What are some of your biggest influences and motivations in your work? What issues are you passionate about working on?

One of the issues that I raise in my art practices is connected to my mother language, Turkmen. Since Turkmenistan is a post-USSR country and because of the education policy the USSR implemented, a lot of people in our country don’t speak Turkmen well but speak Russian instead. Some people even consider it lame to speak Turkmen. I created several images where I lettered some fun and clever phrases in Turkmen and shared them on social media. That was my way of drawing attention to the language problem, and showing that Turkmen is a cool language to speak, and it is an important aspect of our culture.

Another issue that I talk about is gender equality and women’s empowerment. I would really like to live in a world where girls and boys have equal opportunities and are treated with respect. I understand that posting pictures on social media will not solely solve this problem but I am happy I got to create illustrations for UN agencies that work together with the government on different platforms to reach gender equality.

What role can art play in communicating issues related to social justice?

Artists have a better chance to draw attention to social issues with their art. Just a poster, comic art, or an image on social media can make people in local communities think of the problem. But I also believe that cooperating with organisations specialising in preventing and fighting social issues could be more efficient.

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