In Hawwa, Amber Hakim constructs and deconstructs important aspects of her life and faith
“I don’t believe there’s a concrete right or wrong way to live your life — what’s important to me in this body of work is honouring the beauty and pain we all experience while we’re here.”
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 27 June 2023
“I can’t pinpoint when this project officially began but it feels like a homecoming for me in a weird way,” says Amber Hakim of her ongoing photo series Hawwa. Growing up in a moderately conservative Islamic household with a muslim mother and father, Amber struggled with her faith as a young teen, and describes the years after 9/11 as full of “senseless self-hatred and confusion about who I was and what I believed”. However, in her mid-20s, at a point when she felt “the most lost”, Amber rediscovered and rekindled her relationship with Islam, realising that though she had neglected it for many years, she had never truly abandoned it. “There was this part of myself that never left the faith and this project started as a means to bridge my sublunary life with one more spiritually connected.”
Moving between portraits, still lifes and landscapes, the series shows not just Amber’s reconnection to Islam, but also poignant moments and imagery that she encounters in her dreams and in everyday life. “These images explore moments of small epiphany in this world and the world of our subconscious,” she notes. “Some images come from dreams which I very rarely remember, so it feels important to immortalise them somehow when I do. Other images have been inspired by my relationships and connections I’ve had to faith throughout my life.”
Speaking of her favourite images, Amber points out the one of an older man standing with his hands clasped together in front of him. It's a portrait of her father, who she describes as “the cornerstone of my relationship to Islam”. This image references the formative conversations she would have with him as a child about life after death. Another of her favourites is one of a female figure sat on a patterned mat holding prayer beads, which was modelled after a dream she had in which a woman was seeking refuge from a bad situation. “I do believe in the divine and that there are things out of our control. But to sit with the choices you’ve made and reflect on them holds a lot of importance in how we’re able to learn and grow out from these past versions of ourselves,” explains Amber.
Finally, she singles out a dreamy, hazy image of a man, lit by an orange glow and posing with his arms raised. Amber says this image was made in response to her relationship with a friend — someone she “found an instant connection with” and who brought a “bright warmth” into her life. “There's this belief shared and debated among muslims about how our souls could have encountered one another before living on earth… I think about that when I meet new people. I think you can feel when someone will be important in your life, even if you don’t know why.”
Looking forward, Amber says the project is far from over. Functioning similarly to a journal – in that it provides her with a space and an outlet to memorialise, process and understand various aspects of her past and present – it has the potential to be unending. “I think this project will run for as long as I’m alive,” she explains. “I’m curious to see how my vision changes or adapts to my relationship to faith and other experiences I’ll have in my lifetime.”
GalleryAmber Hakim: Hawwa (Copyright @ Amber Hakim, 2023)
Amber Hakim: Hawwa (Copyright @ Amber Hakim, 2023)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.