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Faheem Khan

MFA in Design, Class Marshal

Interview

April 2022

There’s a lot on my plate, but it’s a very tasty plate.

Who are you, and where are you from?
When people ask me that question, I usually reply –– from Wakra, because I was born and raised here, so I see Wakra as my homeplace. But my roots are in Bangladesh and although we do travel back and forth, it is not so much as to mention it as a part of my identity.

How did you end up in VCUarts Qatar and what direction did you choose once here?
I’ve had a creative flair throughout my school years, I took part in a lot of painting competitions and that’s pretty much what I knew about art for almost 12 years of my schooling. When it came time to apply for colleges, I faced family pressure to follow my brothers’ footsteps into engineering and accountancy. But my brother encouraged me to and helped me apply to VCU because I was creative.

During my art foundation year, I realized there’s so much more about art and design, it’s not just painting. After much research and educated contemplation, I picked graphic design because it offered the opportunity to branch out and figure myself out and decide which aspect of graphic design I wanted to focus on. If I had to go back and change my decision, I would still pick graphic design because the range is so broad.

If I had to go back and change my decision, I would still pick graphic design because the range is so broad.

Faheem Khan
What is the specific direction you are leaning towards in graphic design?
My senior year I took a course with Maryam Al-Homaid about 3D printing and 3D prototyping and I realized that I really want to go into making physical stuff, like industrial design. I didn’t have the funding opportunities to pursue options abroad, but I knew the MFA offered a multi-disciplinary program and that a lot of what MFA does could be considered a smaller scale industrial design, and also Covid happened, so I decided that I might as well make the best out of my life and go for MFA here.
Illustration © Sherifa Eletrebi, VCUarts Qatar.
@fa7eemkhan www.behance.net/fa7eemkhan

Curious to see his thesis?
Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution

Faheem Khan, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Faheem Khan, VCUarts Qatar.
I’d like to discuss my thesis. My inspiration for my thesis topic came from my dad. At 60+ years old, he was having difficulty during prayer. I observed him coming up with DIY stuff, putting a cushion or something to ease his discomfort. I realized, ok this seems to be a problem, and I know if my dad is doing it, then, statistically speaking, there are at least a thousand other people doing this, so maybe I should explore that subject.

Innovation in design doesn’t really happen much in Islam because it is such a sensitive topic. And, I wouldn’t say I’m a religious designer, I just observed a problem with my dad and that’s what I wanted to really solve, so it started as a chair design, then a prosthetic, then the idea evolved as I worked to solve the problem, and I focused on the process of ablution.

The Prophet PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him) would use about 650ml of water to perform ablution, which is basically, in terms of scale, 2 Pepsi cans. People now use about 5–7 liters – a massive shift and a really staggering number. Wastage is prohibited in Islam. But, if you go to the washroom, you see people performing ablution, there’s a pool of water all around and its really messy. And, I thought why not make a device that can help people use the same amount of water as the Prophet PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him) used, because at the end of the day, we’re supposed to follow The Prophet PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him) and the things He was doing. This topic not only goes into Islam and connecting people back into its roots, but also sustainability.

Faheem Khan © Faheem Khan, VCUarts Qatar.

This topic not only goes into Islam and connecting people back into its roots, but also sustainability.

Faheem Khan
Faheem Khan, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.
At first, I tried to deconstruct the ritual of ablution by observing the amount of water required per surface area of our body. Also taking notes on our physical gestures while performing ablution. After analyzing all these elements, I did the math and started to deconstruct 650ml of water to its respective 8 steps. I then designed 8 significant vessels that contain the water required to perform ablution on that area and they were designed and printed in-house using VCUarts Qatar’s Boostlab’s 3D printers. My next step would be to converge my learnings from my deconstruction analysis and reconstruct them into one usable, practical as well as poetic object.
Exhibition View of Faheem Khan's, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.
Becoming the student body president is one of my proudest achievements. I was involved with student affairs the entirety of my 4 bachelor years, and it opened a lot of opportunities. I was working closely with the Dean’s office, and Richmond and I learned many skills, people skills, higher admin and diplomatic skills. I was actually elected while doing a semester at main campus, thanks to an amazing team. As president, I worked with the Dean’s office to make a lot of changes, the results of which I am seeing now being back with my MFA. And I’m still involved with Student Affairs at a senior graduate capacity, because of my previous experience.

And that is one of my proudest achievements, that I can give back to VCU for helping me — now I’m helping them back.

Nia Alexander Campbell, 'Reclamancipation: a Story of Brilliance, Resilience, and Transilience' (detail), MFA in Design, 2021, ©Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar
I want to be a professor. This is why I’m getting an MFA. Hopefully, I will get into teaching as soon as I can.

Insight

Design is constantly changing, and this is one of the only fields where it changes and it gets applied and it changes again.

Faheem Khan
Faheem Khan, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.
Faheem Khan, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.
Faheem Khan, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.
Detail. Faheem Khan, ‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution,’ MFA in Design 2022 © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.

Final thoughts for peers
and teachers

To the students I’d say, don’t wait until you graduate to start applying your design skills professionally. Design is constantly changing, and this is one of the only fields where it changes and it gets applied and it changes again. What you learn in your freshman year isn’t the same anymore by the end of your senior year. So, as soon as you’re doing your design start applying it in the real world, as a client or as a hobby project, so that you’re constantly polishing your skillset. And, by the time you graduate, you already know how to use what you’ve studied.

To faculty, I’d say, sometimes work on the projects you assign to students so that you understand how hard it is.

ISSUE No.
4

The RAW Talent

MAY–AUG
2022
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