How this woman turned her own hair and thumbprints into art

Bangladesh-born visual artist Asma Sultana tells of the heartbreak that brought her to Canada, and why she's come to relate her body so intimately to her artwork.

Bangladesh-born visual artist Asma Sultana explains how her body relates so intimately to her work

This artist makes work out of her own thumbprints and her hair

6 years ago
Duration 4:25
In this video, Bangladesh-born visual artist Asma Sultana explains how her art became so related to her own body.

"If somebody wants to fly, we should give them the sky. If somebody wants to swim, we should give them the ocean."

Those are the words of visual artist Asma Sultana, who has made a career in Canada after a previous life in Bangladesh in which she felt lonely and at times suffocated, escaping heartbreak and abuse to start over here.

Sultana's works are extremely personal and that sense of intimacy is aided by her materials: her own thumbprints and hair. She gathers her hair "as if [she's] picking flowers," and uses her thumbprint as a part of her heritage. As Sultana points out, one's thumb is often used to signal their identity in Bangladesh. 

In this intimate portrait directed by Tahiat Mahboob, Sultana takes us through her past, her work, and why now that she's in Canada, she says it's the first time in her life where she feels like she's "swimming in an ocean."

You can see Asma Sultana's work in "Art Brownie," a group exhibition at Gallery 50 in Toronto that runs August 13-28. She also has a solo exhibition at Gallery 50 from November 23-December 4 entitled "Letter to My Unborn Child".

Watch Exhibitionists Sundays at 4:30pm (5 NT) on CBC.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?