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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Malala Yousafzai 'honoured' by new portrait at UK’s National Portrait Gallery

The Oxford University student and human rights activist was photographed by Iranian-born Shirin Neshat

Poetry and Photography were combined in the portrait of the Nobel Prize winning activist. Jorge Herrera/ National Portrait Gallery
Poetry and Photography were combined in the portrait of the Nobel Prize winning activist. Jorge Herrera/ National Portrait Gallery

Poetry and photography have combined in a tribute to activist Malala Yousafzai at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

The portrait unveiled on Sunday features a black and white photograph of the education activist taken by Shirin Neshat, who inscribed words from the Rahman Shan Sayel poem MALALA II over the top.

"You might have seen the wreckage of your country, but this Malala II is fit and proper enough to find a solution for compensating for that wreckage,” one line reads.

The portrait was funded by the Outset Contemporary Art Fund and forms part of a pair. The other shows Ms Yousafzai sat at a desk with an open book, and will be displayed in the Birmingham Museums from 2020.

The Oxford University student became renowned around the world after writing about her experiences living under Taliban occupation in Pakistan and the ban on women’s education. In 2012, at the age of 15, Ms Yousafzai was shot in the head in a Taliban attack on her school bus. After receiving specialist treatment in the UK, her family settled in the city of Birmingham, where she resumed her studies.

In 2014, the activist and writer became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now she is being further honoured, with her portrait joining those of Queen Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela in London’s famous gallery.

“I am honoured to have my portrait included in the National Portrait Gallery alongside some of Britain’s most influential writers, artists and leaders,” Ms Yousafzai said at the unveiling this weekend.

“I hope it will remind visitors that girls everywhere are fighting for change in their communities and countries — their stories must also be heard."

“I knew of Malala as an extraordinary young woman who had marvelled the world by her victory over death; her fierce fight for women’s education and for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, all before she turned 20 years old," said Ms Neshat.

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Read more:

Pakistan's courageous daughter is finally on home turf

Malala defies threats to return to Pakistan

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" It was impossible not to feel intimidated … Yet as she arrived at the studio to be photographed, I was immediately taken aback by her timid, gentle and innocent demeanour. To this day, when I look back on our encounter, I am left with impressions of humility, wisdom and a rare sense of inner beauty."