The journey to understand oneself often sets them on a long journey; one of digging further into their own identity and roots. For Indian , this is a political act in the current scenario — of trying to learn more about roots that are slowly being erased and trying to highlight the plurality of what it means to be Indian.
Mehdi Saaijd is a new media artist who not only interprets his culturally Muslim identity through his works, but is working to showcase the beauty of diversity. He delves deeper into the nuances of diversity in India, including both the old world and the current. While his immersive Islamic geometric installation depicts the i royal house of mourning and breaks it down with intention, his hijabi superhero shows what it means to be a Muslim girl in the modern day, even with the power of bees and ninjas going for her.
Mehdi has always been fascinated by the intersections of varying disciplines of study — humans, psychology, philosophy, technology, and design. So it is understandable that he has worked in a myriad of industries, from experience design to healthcare. While currently working as a product designer at Apollo 24/7, Mehdi employs his design knowledge to improve the healthcare platform. He founded Studio 8bit Rabbit, a design and technology studio focusing on creating immersive and impactful experiences. In addition, he is a visiting professor of Extended Reality at Woxsen University and has even donned the hat of an author of Deccan: Illustrated Hyderabad.
In talking about his foray into art, Mehdi said, “I have always been interested in art, even as a child. I started as a Design Researcher at the Design Innovation Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, where I had the opportunity to enhance my skills in creating innovative designs that improve user experiences. I began taking it more seriously in college while master of design (M.Des). The program helped me to develop my artistic skills and introduced me to different forms of art and design.”
At first, his repertoire may seem like a motley collection, but there is an underlying theme of his and roots that bring them together. In his own words his art style, “amalgamates traditional Indian art forms with modern technology." He went on further to say, "I draw inspiration from various sources, including my culture, history, and current events. Other artists and their work also inspire me. But I try to articulate my emotions with physical and digital materials, so my art style is as diverse as my emotions and materials.”
Perhaps one of the biggest things that this writer noticed about Mehdi Saajid’s work is the depth of detail he dives into. His art notes aren’t just notes — they are booklets; his superhero isn’t just a comic strip — she has a graphic novel of stories that can be turned into a movie. Even his take on depicting the map of Hyderabad goes above and beyond. It uses Irani and Coffee as ink, which is used by a robotic pen to illustrate the image, while elements of Augmented Reality are added to the project to create an immersive experience. It is understandable then, to know that Mehdi's creative process begins with extensive research and observation. He takes time in gathering information and studying his subject matter before he moves on to sketching or working on it. But once he does, he combines traditional and digital techniques to create the final product.
His attempt to combine the traditional and modern is best illustrated through NinjaBee. This personal project is something that he has been working on for the last two years. The story is essentially what the name indicates - a hijabi Muslim superhero with the power of bees and ninjas. Through this project, he hopes to represent Muslim women in media and popular culture positively. While he is still developing the story, Mehdi hopes to make the story of Hijabee Ninja reach more people by publishing it as a and a film as well.
While he leans heavily into his roots, Mehdi also believes that it is hard to remain innately Indian in the light of the current scenario of rampant policing, but he went on to say, “I believe it is essential to stay true to my roots and use my art to showcase the beauty and diversity of Indian culture. It is also thought it is essential to use my art to spark conversations and bring attention to social issues.” Mehdi is currently working on several projects such as creating user-generated designs for Apollo 24/7, developing more experiences at Studio 8Bit Rabbit and working on Ninjabee graphic novel. In the long term, the new media designer hopes to grow as an artist and designer and take on more challenging and impactful projects.
You can stay tuned to Mehdi Saajid
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