Haleema Ali is an ‘artivist’ – an artist who uses her craft as a form of activism – who has previously explored issues such as human rights injustices, knife crime prevention and climate change in her work.
The 28-year-old is now turning her talents to campaigning for the charity Brain Tumour Research after being moved by the story of Amani Liaquat, a Masters student from her hometown of Luton, who died from a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in February at the age of 23.
Amani was a passionate supporter of the charity. She also undertook numerous fundraising activities for it, including organising Luton’s first ever Walk of Hope and setting up the fundraising group.
Haleema has been inspired by her to take part in the charity’s Wear A Hat Day with Flowers fundraiser on 17 June.
She said: “My brother has a life-threatening condition so, to see a local girl like Amani struggling like that was hard as it hit home, especially with her being so young.
“She did so many amazing things in her life, campaigning whilst being ill herself, and what happened to her is heart-breaking.
“Her legacy will live on and I hope my doing this proves that. She was a great role model, caring and loving, and it would be great if more people could model their lives on her actions.”
Haleema, who is known for her quirky fashion sense, has created a social media page under the name ‘Haleema The Hatjabi’ in which she models hats on hijabs and explores different ways of styling and pairing them.
She said: “I’ve been stopped quite a few times because people have recognised my hat or my outfit so I thought I’d do something a bit different to spread positivity and joy, but also to show diversity in fashion.
“Models and actresses will use a certain hair style to go with a hat but my page is about using a hijab style to go with it. Wearing a hijab is a very personal thing centred around modesty and religiosity, as is how to style it, but I like experimenting and having fun with it.”
She added: “I learned how to embroider and crochet during lockdown so, for this fundraiser, I’m keen to make my own flowers to add to the hats, although I might mix it up and use some fresh flowers too.”
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Charlie Allsebrook, for Brain Tumour Research, said: “Amani was an extraordinary young woman whose story touched so many. Her commitment to make a difference was inspiring and we’re over the moon, although not surprised, to see that she is still having such a positive effect on those in her community and beyond.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK.
To register to take part in your own Wear A Hat Day with Flowers event, visit www.braintumourresearch.org/fundraise/wear-a-hat-day-with-flowers