Barber Institute of Fine Arts to Unveil Official Portrait of Malala Yousafzai

Malala is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Photo: via storypick.com
Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Photo: via storypick.com
Malala Yousefzai with artist Nasser Azam. Photo: Sutton PR

Malala Yousafzai with artist Nasser Azam.
Photo: Nasser Azam

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham has announced the upcoming unveiling on November 30 of a specially commissioned portrait of the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, by the British-Pakistani artist Nasser Azam.

The youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, Malala won the prestigious Peace Prize in 2014 for her fight against the suppression of children and young women, and her advocating the education rights of children all over the world.

At only 15 years of age, she set up the Malala Fund to advocate the right of girls to complete a full 12-year education.

On October 9, 2012 the Taliban attempted to silence her by shooting and critically wounding her on on her way to school. She made a full recovery after undergoing rehabilitation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England.

The portrait was unveiled yesterday at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, Birmingham. Photo: Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The portrait will be unveiled on November 30 at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, Birmingham.
Photo: Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Today, Malala is attending secondary school in Birmingham and hopes to pursue a career as a doctor.

Azam met Malala in Birmingham over a year ago. “The idea [for the portrait] came to me when Malala’s autobiography came out last year” he explained in an email to artnet News. “I approached her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who was supportive and then had the honor of meeting Malala, talking with her and gathering some visual material.”

The artist admitted that the task posed a unique a challenge. “Painting a portrait is very difficult, particularly of someone so well known,” he said.

A digital image of the portrait will be on permanent display at the Birmingham Library. Photo: Christian Richters via artfund.org

A digital image of the portrait will be on permanent display at the Birmingham Library.
Photo: Christian Richters via artfund.org

Explaining the creative process behind the unique commission, he added, “The painting was done in London from several studies and photographs taken in Birmingham when we met. It’s a way that portrait painters have worked for centuries […] I have created an image that in the end I hope stands up as both a painting and portrait.”

The artist was full of praise for his subject. “Malala is one of the most famous people in the word and there were inevitably high expectations when I met her,” Azam continued. “It was truly refreshing to discover what a down to earth young woman she is.”

He added, “Her fight for education rights for girls is incredibly important—as far as I can see it is the only chance for progress in regions that are beset by violence and poverty.”

Following the unveiling at the Barber Institute, the artwork will be digitally displayed at Birmingham’s city library, and digital copies will be added to the National Portrait Gallery, London’s archive.


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