Benny, Photographed by Sumaat Khan
“I met my abuser when I was 16. It would be years until I was free. I experienced humiliating and dehumanizing acts committed against me. As he stood less an inch from my face and yelled at me, telling me how weak I was and repeating insults, I kept my head down. At times, it felt like I was playing a game – what would I tolerate in order to be safe, to feel better…to live?
At 20, when I found out I was pregnant, the game got even more complicated. I had no money and he did. I had no way to get to the clinic that would even provide me with an abortion and he had a car. I held on to the one choice I did have. I knew that if I even thought of continuing my pregnancy, my relationship would pull me further into a black hole. I tolerated what I had to in order to be able to get to that clinic and obtain my abortion.
My abortion wasn’t a magical key that set me free from the abusive relationship – It would take me one more year. However, my abortion was my first taste at freedom – it was the first time I held my head up and looked him right in the eye, confronting him. I chose freedom.”
Sumaat Khan is a first-generation Bangladeshi American artist best known for creating sensitive, ethereal art, incorporating subtle yet profound underlying themes. Khan focuses on creating art based on their experiences with childhood sexual assault, encounters with racial discrimination, Islamophobic rhetoric, mental illness, and their journey in decolonizing their mind. They tie together multiple art forms, weaving their poetry with their photography, animations, and illustrations to create a layered, complex narrative that exploring intricacies and intersections of their identity as well as the world around them. Sumaat Khan centers their art on individuals from marginalized communities, aiming to capture the beauty and the voice of their subjects.