Student fuses scenes from his childhood into his paintings

Kareem Moumina works on one of his landscape paintings in the art department studio. Photos: Evan Garcia/University of Miami
By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

Kareem Moumina works on one of his landscape paintings in the art department studio. Photos: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Student fuses scenes from his childhood into his paintings

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
Junior Kareem Moumina spent his childhood in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines and used the unique locations as inspiration for his large-scale landscape art pieces.

Surrounded by half a dozen of his own massive canvases, it is hard to believe that University of Miami junior Kareem Moumina had no formal painting instruction until just three years ago. 

But other than a few high school drawing classes, painting was something he did for fun as a child. 

Then, the summer before college, Moumina dabbled with some of his sister’s oil paints, and created a birthday gift for his grandmother—a still life of roses. 

He enjoyed the experience so much that Moumina enrolled in an intermediate painting class, where he met Brian Curtis, associate professor of art. 

Soon, Moumina was hooked. Since then, he has produced more than 40 large-scale landscape paintings that showcase the vibrant tropical wildlife of The Philippines, where his mother was raised. 

“The more you paint, the better you get, so by having these projects through class, it motivated me to keep improving,” said Moumina, an economics major. 

He has also earned the respect of his instructors and classmates and received the art department’s painting award last spring for one of his 72-inch landscapes, titled “Summer Birds.” 

“He is a wonderful prodigy and in the two years I’ve worked with him, his work has moved so dramatically forward,” said Curtis, who has become a mentor to Moumina. “I’ve been this wonderful spectator watching someone with very prolific talent and energy.” 

Raised in his father’s native Saudi Arabia, Moumina developed his unique style during his first painting course, when Curtis exposed his students to different artists from the 20th century, and then challenged them to create works inspired by the masters. Moumina was quickly drawn to the jungle scenes of French post-impressionist artist Henri Rousseau because it reminded him of family trips to The Philippines. That led him to create a series of landscapes, where Moumina melded some of the colors and terrain from his upbringing in Saudi Arabia with the wildlife found in the Philippines, such as peacocks (his mother’s favorite bird), monkeys, as well as vibrant flowers, plants, mountains, and waterfalls. 

Kareem Moumina surrounded by his paintings.
Kareem Moumina surrounded by his paintings.

“Painting is a way to share my multicultural background—the Philippines’ tropical climate and mountainous deserts of Saudi Arabia are really implemented in my art, and I strive to perfect a composition with those two cultures,” Moumina said. 

Painting also became an outlet of relaxation for Moumina.

“When I paint, I lose track of time,” said Moumina. “I forget about everything when I am painting, and that’s why I like it so much.” 

But he also works diligently to improve his craft. Last semester, he would often spend 12 hours a week, including most Sundays, in the studio. During the spring of his freshman year, Moumina lived in Hecht Residential College and would often wake up and paint in his room. Some students on his floor would watch him paint, sometimes for hours at a time. 

“He generates this kind of energy around him, so people are drawn to him,” Curtis said. “He is a special and unique individual.”

Two friends even created a documentary about Moumina’s commitment to painting and boxing, titled “Master of Two Canvases.” Moumina also hopes to play college football, since he played alongside Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke in high school. 

“I strongly believe that sports and art allow us to express ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually and allow us to connect with each other around the world crossing borders, cultures, languages, and barriers,” Moumina said in the documentary. 

And now that Moumina is devoted to painting, he plans to continue it for life. He even took a class in Italy this summer to improve his painting. 

Moumina
Moumina paints in Florence, Italy this summer as part of a four-week landscape workshop at the Florence Academy of Art. Photo courtesy of Kareem Moumina. 

While he has sold 10 paintings, Moumina isn’t focused on marketing his talent—at least not yet. In the future, he would like to open a gallery with his sisters, but for now, he is just trying to finish college and enjoy painting. 

“For me, painting is something that I won’t stop,” he said. “I’m really addicted to it, so I am sure I’ll do it until I get older. The more you paint, the better you get.” 

To view Moumina’s latest work, visit his Instagram page @kareemmouminaart.