Art has the potential to do both – incite violence and bring about permanent change. What can scarcely be said with actions and words often easily finds a full expression in art. Pakistani-American Artist Mina Hasan is a great example of how art is used to make the most lasting impressions. Through a small palette and contained strokes, she infuses her works with meaning and promise. Her work is minimalistic, political, and rooted in her South Asian legacy.
Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Mina Hasan has grown up in a typically South Asian household. Her parents migrated from Pakistan shortly before she was born. The early years were tough, but her father’s intense back injury drove them to the brink. Living on food stamps and with little hope for change, Hasan’s mother took charge of the situation. She went back to school to major in Biology and eventually became the primary breadwinner for the family. This inculcated in her the importance of commitment and hard work.
During the pandemic, Hasan realized that while there was sustained dialogue around acceptance and diversity, there were very few people in mainstream influencer spaces talking about the plight and struggle of brown people. To add to her grievances, the issue of Palestine’s invasion increasingly troubled her, as there was mass erasure of the presence of the matter on social media. This is when she started putting her work out on Instagram.
Hasan’s work is quiet in its theatrics, but plump with meaning and noise. Her tones are usually dusky shades of brown and gray; symbolically resonating with her thematic focus on promoting brownness and her South Asian identity. Almost her whole portfolio is made up of artworks with minimalistic backdrops and an outline of a country’s map. These countries are mostly Muslim-majority countries that have either been subjected to war and invasion or discrimination on the basis of ideology. Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, and Lebanon are some of her most common subjects. She also occasionally draws on themes of coexistence and peace by using typically brown shades juxtaposed with maps of first-world countries like the US.
The final word that runs throughout her repertoire is that it is lighthearted and not on the nose. She frequently uses symbols of love through flowers and fruits to bring together her artwork in the singular vein of spreading love. Even in the most somber pieces, there is a sustained room for hope and coexistence. Her pieces resonate with a wide array of individuals from different ethnicities, races, and regions. The simplicity with which Hasan paints is symbolic not only of her oneness with her South Asian identity but also of her maturity far ahead of her years.