Karsen: Salaam Esma! I hope you’re doing well. I just want to say I adore your work and illustrations, and they always brighten my day. Can you tell us a bit about your instagram name? And also a bit about your background?
Esma: My instagram name (@strudelworte) when translated to English is actually Strudel Words, because I’ve always wanted something kind of connected to Austria because that’s where I’m from and grew up, and strudel is the dessert that is typical to Austria, and ‘words’ because I’ve started with lettering, and that was my first passion (hand lettering/brush lettering), and I felt like they kind of resembled strudels, and it just made this interesting word that I thought this is what I want for the name of my platform. I also didn’t change it when I started with illustrations, so it kind of stayed because it’s memorable.
I am 24 years old, my parents come from Bosnia originally, and they came to Austria in the 90’s following the war in Bosnia. I have two older sisters, and have grown up in Southern Austria and then Vienna where I live now. I love languages, and am studying English and America studies and German studies, and I’m finishing my Bachelors degree.
“Illustrating is a really cool medium for connecting with people because you have something at one glance, for example when you see a picture you know immediately what it’s about, and what it wants to tell you”
Karsen: Not only when did you get into art, but how did you specify in illustration?
Esma: At the beginning of 2019 because I kind of wanted to have the knowledge of illustrating things for children, I was very interested in children's book publishing and wanted to have the skill to illustrate stories and to be of service for children. That was my main motivation for starting drawing, and I didn’t know or couldn’t believe how people reacted to it. For me it was just draw something and post it and to keep drawing, and it was very interesting how people liked the drawings even though I didn’t think they were very good. Illustrating is a really cool medium for connecting with people because you have something at one glance, for example when you see a picture you know immediately what it’s about, and what it wants to tell you. I also love writing, so combining text with pictures, to kind of add another dimension of connection.
“I want Muslim women and girls to see themselves and each other through my drawings, and to connect to them and to be unapologetic about what they like and how special they are..”
Karsen: Loads of people love your work because they feel like they can relate to it, is that sort of your aim with the different drawings that you do? Or what would you say is your greatest hope from the work you create?
Esma: Thank you! I’m still amazed at how people kind of react to these silly little drawings. I want to achieve kind of a normality of Muslim women and girls through my drawings. To show the world that we are as weird, cool, and different as anyone else, and we kind of have the same normal problems and we like crazy things are just completely unique personalities. I want Muslim women and girls to see themselves and each other through my drawings, and to connect to them and to be unapologetic about what they like and how special they are. And also for non-Muslims to see that we’re colourful and amazing and normal people.
Karsen: How has the journey been for you and what would you say has been the greatest part so far?
Esma: It has been absolutely crazy, I never ever imagined this to blow up like this in a year, I never expected such a great resonance! And I’m really happy that people like them and benefit from them. It’s really unexpected. The greatest thing has been people messaging me that they feel warmth in their hearts from your work, and when they see what you’ve created. But to just have this really cool reaction from people and say things like ‘it’s because of you I started drawing’, or ‘I started following more Muslim artists’, etc. Or just the unexpectedness of all of this happening because I never thought so many people would come to my content and be as amazed by it as I am.