My mom never let my siblings and I say we were bored. Few things bothered her more than that. We had no excuse to be bored. So I spent most of my time, when I wasn’t playing outdoors, sitting in my room painting, cutting up papers to make puppets, making books, and once, when I was about 5 years old, I even decided to experiment with my image-making techniques with one of my friends by using candles to draw on my family’s large TV screen.
Writing and making images are always what I’ve turned to to fill gaps of time.
I grew in Dubai with a Colombian mother and a Pakistani father. I was always conscious of the fact that home was a temporary and abstract concept and I tried to find the language to understand which categories I fit into long before I even realized that that was what I was doing. Then two weeks before my 11th birthday I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which changed so much of my own relationship with myself. It applied another confusing definition to my body that I am still trying to understand. Since then, trying to find language to explain and understand embodied feelings — mental and emotional ones as much as actual physical sensations — has become increasingly important to me. So, in 2015, I moved to New York to get a BFA in Illustration and a BA in Culture and Media Studies at The New School. Having these past few years to explore and learn more about image-making, cultural theory, and writing has pushed me to make more work about mental and emotional health, politics, the body, chronic illness, and the complexities of identity.
Aside from making artwork, I’ve also become involved in the Type 1 Diabetic community on Instagram (a space I did not know existed until relatively recently) but that instantly allowed me to understand my feelings better than I ever could on my own. I’ve begun to make more artwork, write more, and share more on social media about the daily experiences of living with a chronic illness, not only to try and inform non-diabetics about what diabetes actually is and to dispel misinformation, but also to examine the social and political implications of having an invisible disability that affects everyday life. I’ll be graduating this coming spring and I hope to continue the type of things I’ve been working on, to integrate deeply personal experiences further into my writing and illustration, and make more work about mental health, emotional theory, and identities that exist within the borders of definitive categories.
You can also visit her website for more projects here
All images are courtesy of Hannah Nishat Botero