Sayra Begum is an illustrator, writer and educator based in Nottingham. Her style is influenced by Islamic miniatures and Surrealism. She is interested in theology, our relationship to the environment, to each other, and the reality that exists beyond our perception. Begum released her debut graphic novel, Mongrel in 2020 (supported by Arts Council England, published by Knockabout). Mongrel was exhibited in the 2022 NAE Open. In 2023 it was published under the title Je suis Métisse by Delcourt. Begum has contributed to the 10 Years to Save the World comic anthology, taken part in the Comics Cultural Exchange Residency in Prague, contributed to the Wild Escape campaign and is currently creating a comic based on the IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Begum studied BA Illustration at Plymouth College of Art (2014) where she discovered graphic novels in the university’s library. Craig Thompson’s Blankets and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis had a significant influence on her. As a dyslexic, there was accessibility in this multi-modal form of communication which allowed the viewer to be an active participant yet become fully immersed. On the MA Illustration course at Falmouth University (2016), she decided to focus on graphic memoirs, particularly memoirs belonging to female and marginalised voices. Her journey with Mongrel began there and was at the centre of her creative practice until its completion in 2020.


Sayra is the winner of the NAE Open 2022 Residency Prize. She is currently researching pilgrimage for her next graphic novel/gallery comic. She aims to capture ideas from philosophers (and make the inaccessible, and accessible), ideas from society (to listen), and the embodied experience of the pilgrimage itself (recreated for readers to experience and find their perspective). Sayra will be based at NAE until 23 September.

Sayra will use the residency space to develop new paintings for her new graphic novel and experiment with new materials at a larger scale than she is used to. She also plans to host intimate sharing events, and conversations with religious and secular pilgrims, as well as artists who centre their practice around their religious faith in their work. She will also have access to mentorship from NAE’s creative team.

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