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Unable to grip the brush in her fingers, Aida finds new path to creativity — Fingerprints

By Maram Kayed - Oct 04,2018 - Last updated at Oct 04,2018

Artist Aida Murad standing next to her painting (Photo by Megan Won)

AMMAN — “I sat in my bed unable of moving or getting my medications, and that is when I realised I needed help,” said Aida Murad, an accomplished Jordanian-American artist who has permanent damage in her left hand due to arthritis, while recalling her state of denial with the illness.

Aida has now held six exhibitions and sold out three collections in both Jordan and the United States. She is also the organiser of a festival in the US that celebrates refugees’ talents in art, fashion, food and music. 

She has also received the 2017 FHI 360 Impact Award for Woman Leadership, 2017 Most Voted RAW Artist and many other renowned awards.

The FHI 360 award, which is designed to recognise individual leaders who are not in formal positions of leadership, integrates a gender perspective into development programmes to improve outcomes and increase equality among girls, boys, women and men.

However, her journey to success has not been easy.

In 2010, her last year of university, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune type of arthritis called Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

Aida’s doctors explained to her that the disease means that her body’s immune system is now mistakenly attacking her joints.

In an interview with The Jordan Times, Aida said that she was devastated upon getting arthritis all of a sudden at such a young age, and that “it broke her as an individual”. 

"The last year of an art student is supposed to be the best year, but for me I laid in bed semi-paralysed for most of the year.”

After isolating herself from her friends and family, and eventually losing a job that she worked for three years to finally get, Aida started selling her personal belongings online to pay for her medical bills. 

“I quickly became depressed and a shadow of myself,” she said.

Aida described that night when she was unable to stand up to bring her medicine was described as “transformational".

“I woke up the next day knowing in my heart that I will be able to walk again, and be healthy.”

Aida began to try and regain her strength and patience. “I first tried to take the stairs instead of taking the elevator. That took me 30 minutes instead of the usual 2-3 minutes.”
After that, she tried walking to her yoga class, although it took her two-and-a-half hours to get  there instead of the ordinary 15 minutes, but Aida said that she “slowly learned how to enjoy the journey”. 

Months after many trials and errors, she finally graduated from university in what she described as “the longest year of my life”.  

Her next challenge was employment. She noted having trouble answering the traditional question of “What is special about you?” in every job interview. However, Aida said that she “came to a realisation one night” that proved to be critical later in her career.

 “I stared at my hands and it clicked that no one has my fingerprint. It was that simple, I was created with a unique fingerprint that no one in this world has.” 

To ingrain this new epiphany, Aida decided to paint with her fingers using her unique fingerprint. “I painted for hours until I deeply felt and believed I was special. Since that day in September 2014, I have been painting with my hands and poured my heart into my art to communicate what words could not.”

Aida’s art is now painted with her hands, as painting with a brush is too painful for her condition. Several years later, Aida was re-diagnosed with Psoriatic and Osteoarthritis, which is another form of arthritis.

 "It still baffles me that arthritis is what has gotten me to where I am today and has truly been the worst and best thing that has ever happened to me.”

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