Local Parishes

Pakistani-American artist paints from her past

Hamama Tul Bushra talks about her artwork on exhibit in Leawood’s St. Michael the Archangel Lower Narthex Gallery. Her art features women in vibrant multipatterned colors reminiscent of South Asian culture. COURTESY PHOTO

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

LEAWOOD — “Painting for Saint Michael’s was definitely rewarding,” said Hamama Tul Bushra. “I felt connected again, and I just loved it.”

What Bushra felt connected to was her childhood in Pakistan as she created an exhibit of acrylic paintings exclusively for Leawood’s St. Michael the Archangel Lower Narthex Gallery.

Last year, gallery curator Ann Hatch approached Bushra about exhibiting her work.

Bushra was trained as a graphic designer at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. She earned her master’s degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Her art features women in vibrant multipatterned colors reminiscent of South Asian culture.

“She had a wonderful collection of works about the experience of mothers and daughters and women in general in Pakistan,” said Dr. Kevin Vogt, director of the Center for Worship and Sacred Arts. “We thought it was a wonderful story she was telling.”

When Bushra visited the gallery and church, she was overwhelmed by nostalgic memories of her childhood in Pakistan where, though Muslim, she attended Christian schools.

“All your past completes you as a person, as a whole,” said Bushra. “I paint things that come from my memory.

“In Pakistan, we had a Christian community. I had friends there; I went to school there.

“This gave me the opportunity to go back and relive that time.”

Bushra has a distinctive style that reflects her background in graphic arts and her love for the colorful motifs of her homeland.

“Color combinations are part of our culture,” she said. “Patterns also, we are rich in patterns. Every surface usually has patterns.

“I love America and I would never want to go back and live [in Pakistan]. But I think what I miss is reflected in my paintings.”

Bushra is one of many artists that have exhibited in the gallery since it was established in 2020.

Hatch, an artist herself, came to Vogt with the idea that a hallway in the lower level of the church would be a good place for a small gallery.

“She proposed an exhibit during Lent of a contemporary version of the Stations of the Cross that she herself had painted,” said Vogt. “And that’s kind of how we got started.”

The gallery has featured several seasonal exhibits that stay up two or three months at a time.

“We’ve tried to balance the shows alternating between sacred art and liturgical year themes to other secular art that emanates from the human spirit,” said Vogt.

The gallery is a form of outreach to the St. Michael community and beyond.

“The work of drawing people into the church and to Christ, that’s the work of God himself,” said Vogt. “We’re simply creating spaces and moments of openness in a relationship.

“God and his Holy Spirit can do the work of binding humanity together in his kingdom and his plan.”

From the current exhibit, Bushra hopes people viewing her art find happiness, peace and connectivity.

“I want my paintings to give a message of humanity that we all are connected,” she said. “It’s based on love and peace.

“The paintings for the church honestly came out of my love and nostalgia — a sense of missing people.

“I transferred that through my brushes on the canvas. I think I cannot express better in words what I say in color.”

Many local, regional and even nationally known artists have been featured in the gallery. It is gradually acquiring a small permanent collection of sacred art to be exhibited in rotation.

St. Michael the Archangel Parish extends an open invitation to everyone and anyone to come and experience God’s beauty through the eyes of an artist.

“Sharing creativity like this creates all kinds of opportunities for the Holy Spirit to move and for things to happen,” said Vogt.

Check out the art

Visit the Lower Narthex Gallery at St. Michael the Archangel Church,  located at 14251 Nall, Leawood. The gallery is on the basement level of the church outside the parish hall.

For more information, visit the website at: www.stmichaelcp.org/gallery.

There will be an opportunity to meet Hamama Tul Bushra in the gallery Nov. 19 between 10 a.m. and noon, and the exhibit will be on display through November.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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