Written by: Naman Arora
A Bahrain-based polymer artist is debunking the American dream of ‘bigger is always better’ with her miniaturised food and cultural art pieces.
Alifya Zakiuddin, 33, started miniaturising some of her favourite dishes a year ago and has now created bite-sized and delicious-looking models of dishes, including eggs sunny-side up, pizza, Indian street food favourites dosa and idlis.
‘I like making things which look realistic and play with perspective,’ Alifya told Gulf Weekly, ‘I love the problem-solving challenge that comes with trying to figure out how to get miniatures to look realistic.’
‘Staying in Bahrain, I don’t always have access to specialised tools and liquids that make it easy to craft fake food. So, I have to look for alternatives like kitchen knives, rolling pins and sewing pins to add texture to my food.’
The Indian mother-of-two started playing with polymer at the age of 23, when she was pregnant with her eldest daughter, Ruqaiyah.
She has expanded her polymer palette to model her palate over the years, honing her detail-focused process with every piece.
She added: ‘After I have conceptualised the design, it takes three to six hours to create one miniature depending on its intricacy.’
‘The clay that I use is made from scratch at home. I start by conditioning the clay, then sculpting and texturing each piece of the design, adding colours using special pigmented pastels. After that I assemble all the different pieces together. And, finally, if I use liquids for a more realistic look I have to bake it, otherwise I air-dry.’
Encouraged by her family and especially her husband Yousif Zakiuddin and father-in-law Zakiuddin Abbas, she plans to introduce new designs in the coming months including her favourite Bahraini foods, like falafel, kanafeh and baklawa.
‘My family is always mesmerised by my creations and have been my backbone on this journey,’ she added.
‘They were kind of stunned when I first miniaturised eggs sunny side up in a pan and pizza because it looked quite so real! My favourite pieces are Baraf Gola (Indian ice candy), masala dosa and idli.’
While Bahrain has its share of clay artists, food miniaturists are few and far between. However, the art form is seeing a surge of popularity in the Indian subcontinent, which is where Alifya finds her inspiration.
Her decade-long journey through the medium has also taken her through the personalised crafting of keychains, nameplates, jewellery and more. She has also seen success amongst her community with her hand-crafted namakdanis, which are bowls that hold salt, unique to the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community.
Alifya explained: ‘A traditional Bohra meal starts and ends by tasting a pinch of salt. We believe that salt clears the gut, cleanses the palate and helps fight several diseases. So the cup element of the design is intended to be filled with salt.
‘As for the aesthetic element, in our community, during big events like weddings, birthdays and baby showers, namakdanis are customised according to the occasion.’
Her deliciously detailed designs have fascinated both Bahrainis and expats and she hopes to expand her client base beyond her community.
She also helped raise awareness about breast cancer with a Think Pink giveaway on her Instagram account, along with her friends @manmun_creations and @lilbobeep_bh.
‘We have lost some near and dear ones to this disease due to a lack of awareness. By working together, we want to encourage everyone to learn more about it and express solidarity for those who are in the midst of their journey.’
To check out Alifya’s art, follow @alf_creation on Instagram.
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