Phoenix artist Safwat Saleem works in illustration, writing, animation, film, and more to study the idea of belonging.
Safwat Saleem is a visual artist, graphic designer, and Senior TED Fellow. He brings light to stories and adversity through satire and artistic expression. His work spans illustration, writing, animation, audio, film, and sculpture.
“Having experienced my childhood in the United Arab Emirates as an immigrant from Pakistan, and then, as an adult, experiencing a two-decades-long naturalization process to become an American citizen, my art generally focuses on the idea of belonging. I try to simultaneously understand and question what it means to be a part of a community and the responsibility we might have toward those who feel they don’t belong.
I work in various media and often combine several forms—print, collage, audio, video, and interactive installations—to create storytelling experiences. Humor is also a key ingredient in my work and acts as a crucial starting point for thought-provoking discussions about underlying social issues.
I’m an accomplished illustrator, and it plays a major role in the visuals I create. In a past life, I was also the founder of Bandbaja, a Pakistani music magazine that promoted the use of modern popular music as a socio-political tool. I have a penchant for doing voiceovers in my animated videos for all kinds of silly characters like a bear, a sheep, a greeting card, and a whale, to name a few.”
An ongoing series, A Little Lost, is a reaction to the sense of isolation felt during this pandemic. Each piece in the series features a lone character who feels isolated because of boundaries that may be real or imagined. These characters want to belong but appear to be stuck in a state of limbo.
Phoenix, AZ | safwatsaleem.com | ig: @safwtf