BY: KRUPA JOSEPH
Mohammed Fayaz, born and raised in Queens, NY, is an illustrator who goes by the pseudonym Mojuicy. The self-taught artist has been creating portraits since his childhood. He started out by drawing women– mostly, white women– and only started drawing male figures in middle school as a personal challenge. It was towards the end of high school that he began actively pursuing gay encounters, which reflected in his artwork. Today, his portfolio boasts of illustrations that depict the abstruse experience a queer person of colour would have in New York.
It didn’t take him very long to realize that he viewed the world from an extremely unique perspective, thanks to his experiences as a second generation Muslim-Indian who identifies as gay. His works have elements of diaspora, homosexuality and utopia in them. He shows queer people of colour in care-free, non-homophobic, non-transphobic, non-binary world, where they are looked at as ‘normal’ as opposed to being treated as outsiders, or even, an abomination.
His characters, regardless of your ethnicity or sexual orientation, are extremely relatable. This is probably because each of them are manifestations of his own experiences, and the people he has met or the kind of people he hopes to meet with. Through his illustrations, you get a glimpse into the real Mohammed. You see how his mind works, how his tastes and preferences evolve, and how his ‘normal’ might be completely different from a white, heterosexual person’s.
Growing up, he couldn’t find any instances of his experiences in any works of art or literature. He found strength through his art, and he hopes to empower others of similar experience through his work. He doesn’t believe in the concept of art for art’s sake, and actively works towards keeping his creations rooted in reality, and thereby, help normalize what the lives of queer people of colour are like.
The characters he creates are never seen doing anything extraordinary or explicitly homosexual in nature. They are seen lying on the bed cruising the internet, sitting in parks smoking weed, or hanging out on stoops. These portrayals are given titles like Productivity and Escalating.
Fayaz believes that the media is unconsciously or consciously always white. It is very rarely that people of colour make it to mainstream media. His works explore what it means to be visible in everyday settings. With his work he hopes to document and illustrate the nuanced complexities of the lives of Queer Trans People of Colour [QTPOC], with all their complications and uniqueness.
“Stereotypes are constantly perpetuated and massaged into the consciousness at large,” says Fayaz, “That’s not the world that I know, that’s not the world that queer people of colour who congregate around the world know. We live amongst one another, we love and hurt one another, and we chill on the stoop in the summertime with a blunt with our hair in braids. I want to capture what’s going on so that we can look at this reflection and embrace the beauty we’re steeped in.”
He also realizes that QTPOC is an umbrella term, and that he might not be doing justice in representing the experiences of everyone who falls within the bracket. As someone who has taken it upon himself to illuminate the diversity of the community, he often wonders if he reiterates the light skinned, able bodied trope.
One of his more recent works, Rukhsana with Cap that featured on Tumblr gained instant popularity. The illustration depicts the portrait of a girl, dressed in a gold salwar. She adorns bangles on her hand, rings on all her fingers, a nose-ring and a maang tikka on her forehead. But, what catches our attention is the backwards facing baseball cap that sits on her head. This piece, much like the rest of his work, only reiterates the fact that people don’t necessarily fit into the same moulds.
Another recurring theme in his works is that of intimacy. We see how queer people find a family in complete stranger. “Those kinds of interactions and relationships are key to our survival and I want to document and celebrate the power of choosing to support and love one another,” he explains. When he sets to work, he often draws from his memory. He conjures the images of people he has met, the people he has fallen in love with, the characters he has met on the dance floor, discovered online, and even just happened to get a glimpse of.
It is this sense of care and concern prevalent in most of his illustrations that makes his work relatable to almost everyone.