Maryam Masud has been drawing and doodling ever since she was a kid. And people are starting to take notice, thanks to her most recent series, Colors of Islam, which imagines Disney characters wearing the hijab. A sort of surprising project, considering her Bangladeshi parents didn’t want her watching too much Disney growing up.
“[Disney movies] have a lot of messages that are subtle and are not exactly how people should be portrayed,” Masud says. “It’s not like [my parents] stopped us from watching it if we wanted to, it was that they didn’t necessarily encourage it.” This led Masud to other forms of entertainment such as Japanese anime.
As she learned about cosplay culture, Masud saw a lack of characters she could easily dress as. Many characters were white males, or women with a specific style of dress or physique. Colors of Islam is her attempt at remedying that exclusion by opening up the world of Disney.
Masud knows her characters extremely well. She can discuss them or the merits of Tangled versusFrozen at length. “People forget that Rapunzel is an astronomer. She’s a fashion designer, a cook and a baker… She’s a scholar.”
Overall, Masud wants to preserve each character’s essence. “Their character description is the exact same as it was, we’re just adding the word Muslim to it.”
It’s up to the audience to think about the implications. “How does the word Muslim change the stories? Will they behave differently in society? How would society perceive them and how would their stories change?”
She sees her work as a character re-interpretation that allows others to create their own stories. “I want every single person who looks at these pictures to reclaim it for themselves.”