Yusuf Misdaq
Charleston, SC | Spring 2023

We were delighted to host sound artist, musician, documentary filmmaker, and poet Yusuf Misdaq for FSA’s Artist-in-Residence program in Charleston in Spring 2023. Yusuf Misdaq is an Afghan artist who has lived most of his life in the U.K., and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Often working under various pseudonyms (if not entirely anonymously), he has been called “a spectral presence in music,” by the Independent Curators International (ICI), and no less than a mystic in his poetry. This description is applicable to his other practices as a poet, sculptor, and performer. Alongside his artmaking, he has spent 12 years studying and walking the ancient Sufi path of Islamic Mysticism native to his motherland of Afghanistan. This Sufi practice includes advanced breath control, meditation, unity and service to all, perfection of the heart, and sublimating the ego.

For the residency, FSA engaged Misdaq’s project “Ashtiname,” for a particular iteration and performance during his time in Charleston, one of his many planned projects that had not yet manifested. “Ashtiname” is “a conceptual suite of tones, incantations, compositions, dreams, and songs” that have been inspired by a historical letter Ashtiname of Muhammad, written by the Prophet Muhammad regarding a group of Christian monks who resided in an ancient monastery on Mt. Sinai. The letter goes at lengths to elevate their status, guarantee their safety, ensure their protection, rights, and exemplifies Muhammad as a misunderstood figure in history. Inspired by this historical religious document, Misdaq produced a dynamic musical performance, including but not limited to: ambient synth music, psychedelic pop and Islamic chanting accompanied with corresponding images. FSA hosted Misdaq’s live, immersive performance as part of FSA’s Garden Party at the conclusion of Spirited Brunch (April 23rd). Misdaq’s residency culminated in a Sufi meditation at the Unitarian Church of Charleston and an artist talk at the Hindu Temple. Open to the local community, Misdaq led participants through a unique meditation experience of rhythmic chanting and breath control —as an invitation to focus upon primal emotion, a fitting conclusion to his exploration of Islamic principles of “oneness and unity.”

To view Yusuf Misdaq’s residency projects documentation in Charleston CLICK HERE


About the artist:

Misdaq’s creative work crosses genres, creating new sensory experiences, (one of many reasons why he prefers not to use terms like multi-disciplinary).

About the artist:

Misdaq’s creative work crosses genres, creating new sensory experiences, (one of many reasons why he prefers not to use terms like multi-disciplinary). Among his expansive output, there do emerge common themes, for example much of his work tends to be marked by an introspective tilt, alongside plain, clear-speaking voices, devoid of over-intellectualization. Most of all, whether in film, sculpture, song, or story, there is a discernible focus upon primal emotion, the human heart, and the eternal qualities of rightly-guided, properly-sourced creativity.  

Misdaq’s art has appeared on NPR, BBC, and he was most recently an artist-in-residence at RHIZOME gallery in Washington, D.C. He has also taught his own class on creativity and writing at various venues, including academic settings such as New York University’s Islamic Center; The Marvin Center at George Washington; University D.C.; the University of California, Irvine; and the University of Brighton (UK).