An art installation in remembrance of a London, Ont., Muslim family was unveiled on Saturday.
The mural, commissioned by the property management team at White Oaks Mall, will reside at the mall until June 6, the one-year anniversary of the vehicle attack that has been deemed an act of terrorism.
The painting by Toronto-based artist Amer S.M is inspired by an artwork done by 15-year-old Yumna Afzaal, who was killed along with her father, mother and grandmother.
“What she did at her age was a dream of mine when I was her age, (which) is why I wanted to make the piece as original to her work to give her that tribute,” said S.M.
Afzaal painted a mural at a school, which inspired the mural dedicated to the family. The quote, “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” was part of the original mural.
“When I read the quote that she had on the wall, I wanted to make the art reflect that — having a silhouette of her mom, her dad, (her grandma) and herself in the sky and the stars,” S.M continued.
Huda Sallam, a friend of Afzaal, remembers her as creative and artistic.
She recalled Afzaal learning how to spray paint in the two weeks prior to creating the mural.
“What people don’t know is, she is the art. She was and is the masterpiece. She is her own legacy,” Sallam said.
“When you think of Our London Family, you remember a tragic story … I think it’s really important that we’re finally starting to heal as a community.”
The Grade 10 Oakridge Secondary School student says she cried when she saw the mural on Saturday morning.
“It’s beautiful… she would’ve loved it so much.”
Imam Aarij Anwer of the London Muslim Mosque also recounts Afzaal as a creative student when he taught her at the London Islamic School.
“When something would pique her interest, she would master it, (and) this was that. The (mural) that she did, it piqued her interest, and against all odds, she mastered spray painting,” he recalled.
“She created a masterpiece and left it for us all. That’s Yumna for you, that’s who she is.”
When Anwer first saw the mural in remembrance of the Afzaal family, he was at a loss for words.
“It’s incredible… To see it in-person and how beautiful it is (and) how beautifully and thoughtfully it was curated, the words that are written … it means so much to the Muslim community.”
“This is our city, this is our home (and) this memorial is a living example of that.”
Hanni Shahatto, who taught Afzaal at the London Islamic School, remembers her as a bright student.
“Yumna is one of those students, when it comes to report card time, you don’t need to think twice,” he smiled. “Everything was excellent, everything was above-average. Anything she did was going to be top-tier.”
“(The mural) is bigger than the art. It’s her story as well that’s creating change and a legacy,” he said of the mural.
The mural will reside at White Oaks Mall until the one-year anniversary of the attack.
It will then be moved to its permanent home at a community centre belonging to the London Muslim Mosque.
— with files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham
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