16 January 2021
Los Angeles, CA

Muna Malik on experiencing artistic freedom through a fantastical state of mind

Transcribed by Muna Malik and prompted by Zion Estrada

Are You Really Here
A film by Muna Malik

This project sets out to examine the unique issues that naturally arise pertaining to African American women’s conception of beauty and body image. Are You Really Here is an organic collage of cinema verité, performance art, and written word. It focuses on the psychological and self-revelatory exploration of beauty, identity, and self-reflection. Set in the Los Angeles metro, viewers witness the psyche and the self of a black woman unfold before them. This examines the fundamental conundrum that the self only exists in relation to others. But what does one do when no-one in the room looks like you?

Muna Malik is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles, CA. Her work has been featured in such exhibits and publications as The New York Times, Vogue, Annenberg Center for Photography, and MOCA. She creates bold and poetic narratives that abstract from contemporary issues, particularly those concerning women of color and refugees.


How do I define fantasy and reality? I think I have a hard time with questions like this because I've always thought about fantasy and reality as more of a question of perception. I know I see the world in a very particular way based off of my experiences where I've grown up, my cultural background and the life I'm living today. My perception of reality as a black woman in America is very different to the realities of cis white men or really anybody else because there isn't anyone that has the same identical makeup that I do. 

Fantasy on the other hand I think of as a dream state where I have complete control over my thoughts, emotions, and environment. It's when I can close my eyes and I see my definition of the future or my idealistic view of the past. As an artist, I've learned that the best work I've produced comes from the freedom I find when I'm in a fantastical mental state. I create best when I'm not bogged down by my reality as a black woman in America. The process “being” while creating is as close to living in “fantasy” as I’ve ever gotten.

My current reality is I am unbelievably blessed to be able to pursue a dream that I didn't think was possible. I'm an black female artist living in Los Angeles that has the ability to support my fundamental needs as a human and focus on the joyous act of creation. I'm lucky to have full artistic sovereignty because of a beautiful community of people that are supporting me through this unexpected journey. I'm able to create without the fear of failure because I know I have a support system that will help me through what eventual failure looks like. A community that will help me learn from my future mistakes. A community that is teaching me along the way. In a weird way this is and was my fantasy growing up that I’ve fortunately been able to manifest through hard work and openness.

Muna Malik photographed by Travis Matthews ︎


A Consul_Co project.
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