Hira Kamil

Hira Kamil



Handmade hemp paper, tea stain, handmade watercolours, 23.4k shell gold, platinum, 18.1k shell gold, lapis lazuli, malachite, cochineal, and natural pigments
64 x 86 cm ( 25.1 x 33.8 in )


Water colour paper, Indian wash technique, natural pigments, handmade watercolours
56 x 75 cm ( 22 x 29.5 in )

Celebration (Safavid tiles) Celebration (Safavid tiles)
Tiles and glazes

Artist statement

After graduating in Indo-Persian miniature painting at Karachi School of Art, Pakistan, in 2014. I began to find that painting these artworks became very difficult – until I attended some courses at the VMCTA (The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Art, Karachi Centre). Here I met amazing tutors who introduced me, not only to a method of painting using natural pigments including shell gold, but also to geometric patterns and their secret symbolic meaning. From this time on, my life changed, and I decided to follow my heart and learn traditional art together with the spiritual journey that it encompasses.

Although born and brought up a Muslim in Pakistan, being in London with the courses offered on the MA Programme here at The School has opened my eyes to the inner meaning of Islamic traditional art. When I attended the first course with tutor David Cranswick, he introduced crushing and grinding the natural pigments and making our own paints through this process. I began to understand that this was an outward action reflecting the journey within which begins with grinding our egos.

After attending all the Part One modules, I found myself drawn further onto my path which led to my research for the second-year project. This project is based upon a Sura (chapter) of the Quran, called Shams, Sura 91. It has three parts and fifteen verses.

The first part of this Sura contains the description of the Sun and Moon and their secrets. The second part of the Sura is centred upon the good and bad, the dark and the light. The third part is based upon the tribe of Thamud who, in their pride, demanded that God send them a miracle, so God sent them a she-camel; but the tribe of Thamud did not let the camel drink and they ‘hamstrung’ her. Therefore God “doomed them for their sin and razed their dwellings”. (Pickthall translation)

For my second-year project, I have chosen the first part of the Sura which is based upon the Sun and the Moon. My initial idea was to paint a geometric interpretation of the sun and moon but then I was offered an apprenticeship (via the internet) with the Turkish master, Ayten Tiryaki from Istanbul, and my idea for my 2nd-year project changed. I decided to embark upon Islamic manuscript illumination and I started to examine the sun (shamsa) inspired by the beautiful opening page of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s Album. This is a 17th century illuminated manuscript in which the opening page depicts a large illuminated shamsa. I researched the underlying geometry and the movement of the biomorphic elements inside the shamsa using natural pigments and different kinds of shell gold. I used natural hemp hand-made paper from India to draw my shamsa on.

I am also making some zillij tiles inspired by the beautiful frontispiece illuminations of the Qur’an commissioned by the 14th Sultan Ulljaytu, to be found in the National Library of Cairo. This Qur’an is written and illuminated by Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad al-Hamadani and is considered “one of the greatest accomplishments of the art of the book”. (Richard Ettinghausen, quoted in Splendours of the Qur’an: Calligraphy and Illumination by Martin Lings, 2005, p.70)

The tutors here at the School have all helped me a great deal on my journey, not only externally as an artist but also internally on my spiritual path.


Hira Kamil

Despite coming from a conservative family where education is not considered important, she has pursued her passion for art and excelled in her field. Hira obtained her Professional degree in Indo-Persian miniature paintings from the Karachi School of Arts in Karachi, Pakistan. Additionally, she completed a bachelor's degree in arts from the University of Karachi.

To further enhance her skills and knowledge, Hira pursued a one-year diploma programme at the VM Centre for Traditional Arts in Karachi. During this programme, she developed a fascination for the art of illumination and geometry. Hira explored the concepts of geometry and biomorphic design, which aided her in understanding the underlying hidden geometry in the original Quranic manuscripts. This knowledge also helped her in exploring geometry and biomorphic patterns in monuments across Pakistan.

Currently, Hira is undertaking an apprenticeship with Ayten Teryaki, one of the Turkish masters. This opportunity allows her to learn from an experienced artist and refine her skills further. This collaboration may expose Hira to new techniques, styles, and perspectives, enriching her artistic abilities.

Hira's dedication to her craft and her pursuit of opportunities for growth demonstrate her commitment to becoming a skilled artist in the field of miniature paintings, illumination, and geometry.


Instagram @hira_kamil14
Email Hirakamil[at]hotmail.com