Spotlight on: Artist and poet, Karimah Hassan

Karimah Hassan, originally trained as an architect, is a whip-smart multi-hyphenate from London, proving that art and poetry stem from the same creative source. Through her work, she blends colour with introspective poetry, offering a unique lens on identity and humanity.

With ancestral connections to Wales, Yemen, and Bangladesh, her diverse background has fuelled her journeys across Tokyo, Prague, and New York, igniting a passion for both art and verse. Hassan, who has earned herself collaborations with Burberry and the Alexander McQueen Foundation, represents a modern-day creative with South Asian roots, intent on finding expression through art, poetry, and writing. It’s only fitting that her eye for detail and singular approach to colour and composition have her dipping toes in fashion.

Karimah Hassan

On Instagram, the multidisciplinary artist serves a tasteful curation of little art vignettes and poetry, along with regular portraits—posing for Parisian brands or marching down for dinners in Huishan Zhang.

Below, Hassan offers a glimpse into her creative sanctuary, sharing how she seamlessly intertwines art and poetry to express her innermost thoughts, foster empathy, and inspire change.

Le Mill: Who is Karimah Hassan?

Karimah Hassan: I transitioned to painting from architecture a few years ago as a form of self-healing to explore spiritual questions and reconnect with myself. During this transition, I began by capturing performers and friends during their artistic expressions in jazz dance and hip hop, unknowingly establishing connections with the communities I now serve. My journey led me from London to New York, where I found representation with a gallery. Now, my practice is imbued with the spirit of cities I once lived in, like NYC, London, Tokyo, Prague, and Toronto, each shaping my creative path.

Karimah Hassan's 'The Strangers Yearbook' is a project started in the pandemic, documenting how people on the internet were feeling at a time of uncertainty. Now on permanent display at Kings Cross, London.

I paint and write as a means of evolving openly, showcasing the questions I grapple with rather than claiming to possess answers. This transparency has facilitated my ongoing transition from community-driven murals to more introspective poetry and spoken word pieces. My practice revolves around creative honesty and recognising the healing power of creativity and the importance of continuing to craft beauty in a world that craves it. The essence lies in courageously embracing uncertainty while actively seeking understanding.

LM: Was the journey difficult?

KH: I believe the challenges I faced in pursuing creativity were largely obstacles I had allowed myself to perceive. Rather than seeing my South Asian identity as a limitation, I now view it as an opportunity. Instead of considering my lack of experience as a hindrance, I recognise it as a unique perspective to offer. Our cultures are imbued with richness—sensuality, vibrant colours, sounds, and scents—all of which deeply inspire me.

Karimah Hassan in her element

Pursuing a creative life presents challenges for anyone, regardless of their heritage. The world is adept at placing obstacles in our paths, obstructing our unique brilliance and talents. By shifting my focus to the gifts my heritage bestows upon me, I began to attract supportive allies from diverse backgrounds—individuals who believe in the transformative power of art. While the journey has been arduous, it's one that anyone pursuing the calling of their soul would find challenging.

LM: Can you talk us through your poetry process?

KH: My poetry process involves daily writing rituals. I start with morning pages, a form of artistic expression, followed by gratitude lists, journaling, and therapeutic-style questioning. I set aside uninterrupted blocks of time, away from distractions, to immerse myself in writing. Inspiration strikes during various activities; whether it's running, showering, or leaving voice notes for friends, ideas flow naturally. I prefer writing with a pen and paper, as it feels more connected to my body.

'More Than Before' by Karimah Hassan

Afterward, I review, refine, and revisit the words. Speaking them aloud helps me gauge their impact. Singing is also integral to my process; it serves as a means of self-soothing and prayer, often intertwining with my poetry.

LM: What is your chosen medium to share your creativity with the world?

KH: My artistic journey has naturally evolved from solely painting and exploring colour to now integrating poetry with my visual creations. While written words serve as a precise tool, images allow for a more assertive expression. It took time for me to cultivate confidence and a deeply embodied perspective, enabling me to freely share poetry that resonates with my spirit. My guiding question has become: How can I make words flow as smoothly as honey? As a lover of music, I see lyrics as a means of rendering messages more palatable. The Instagram vignettes and spoken word nights represent iterations and practice sessions as I strive to discover the perfect blend of message, emotion, colour, words, and resonance that simultaneously heal and entertain.

LM: Does creative expression know no bounds?

KH: “Creativity serves as the gateway drug to the wilderness,” is a line I live by. We possess the freedom to express ourselves as openly as we do to be honest with ourselves, and our courage is evident in our ability to listen and receive. At its core, our creative endeavour is an exploration of the human experience without bounds.

'Playing Small' by Karimah Hassan

The realms of art and poetry are intrinsically linked, offering unique perspectives on perception, emotion, and processing. Among my favourite writers are Carlo Rovelli, Rainer Maria Rilke, Carl Sagan, and Calvino. Rovelli sees physics as poetry, while Calvino views metaphor as architecture. Perhaps art and poetry serve as my chosen tools, yet in truth, I'm merely attempting to navigate and understand the current zeitgeist.

LM: What’s next?

KH: I'm currently developing a series titled “Soleil”, which brims with vibrant imagery evoking peace, sunshine, and glimpses of an oasis. I'm working to complete this collection for an upcoming showcase.

'Soleil' in process by Karimah Hassan

I aspire for my poetry to act as a remedy, enveloping audiences in the tranquil embrace of an oasis through vibrant colours. My goal is to share my insights on faith, consciousness, and empathy, providing a gateway to healing that unites humanity rather than emphasising our duality.

LM: What inspires you?

KH: I find inspiration in sources that instill courage within me. This includes the poetry found in hip-hop, the soulful melodies of neo-soul singers, the writings of activists from the 1960s, and the insights of physicists. I dedicate hours to immersing myself in interviews with luminaries such as Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, and Patti Smith. I listen to artists like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, and I observe designers at work in their studios.

LM: What would you Write / Paint for Le Mill

KH: Here are some paintings I made inspired by Le Mill, I thought of what Mumbai means to me including small vignettes into dream places I would like to sit and have coffee read a book and people watch.

'Le Mill' as perceived by Karimah Hassan