By Erin Mason
Alumna Iman Omar’s Arabic mural, Dance at Ishtar Gate, is the latest addition to International Avenue’s (17 Ave. S.E.) celebration of multiculturalism through art and the sixth mural installation commissioned by the area’s Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ).
Omar, MSc’11, is an electrical engineer but better known by many as an artist. She studied art in Germany and has exhibited her work in Calgary and overseas but she says the 12 ft. by 16 ft. mural was a unique challenge that combined her artistic side with years of engineering experience.
“When they asked me to paint this mural and told me the size, I said, ‘show me the door please,’ ” she says. “The maximum size that I have ever painted is less than one metre.”
Recreating a small painting in a larger area is made possible with one of two tools: a projector totrace the piece onto a larger canvas, or a calculator. Being an engineer, Omar chose to calculate the difference in size by multiplying each line by 9.88 to fit the 12 ft. by 16 ft. area.
The resulting mural features many important symbols of Arabic culture: the Babylonian Ishtar Gate, originally constructed in 546 BC; mushhushghu, a mythological creature; aurochs, a bull representing the god Adad; the ancient lion of Babylon, symbolizing the goddess of war and fertility; and the dabke, a popular Arabic folk dance.
“It’s another celebration of our diverse heritage and a reminder of the great community that we live and work in,” says Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director of the International Avenue BRZ.
The mural unveiling on Oct. 19 was attended by Omar’s family, colleagues and professors from the Schulich School of Engineering. She says her professors are strong supporters of her work as an engineer and an artist, and Omar is a proud University of Calgary alumna.
“The people at the University of Calgary are so kind,” says Omar. “They have made my dreams come true. I am a daughter of the University of Calgary.”
Omar will return to the university to complete her PhD in electrical engineering in 2012.